GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Hundreds of people chose to pay it forward Saturday morning at John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids for the annual 'Walk for Wishes' event to raise money for Make-a-Wish Michigan.
Organizers anticipated more than 500 people attending the event which is expected to raise around $100,000 this year to go toward granting wishes for kids in Michigan facing life-threatening medical conditions.
Last year, 'Walk for Wishes' raised more than $91,000.
“That time at a medical diagnosis, there’s a sense of loss of control and so Make-A-Wish, in allowing the kids to determine ‘if you could have one thing, what would you want?’ it gives them back a sense of control and gives the family a positive focus," said Karen Davis, president and CEO of Make-a-Wish Michigan which is celebrating three decades of granting wishes this year.
The Tanis family of Grandville knows first hand the impact Make-a-Wish can have after their 5-year-old daughter, Lily, who is battling a brain tumor had her wish to meet Cinderella at Disney World become a reality last year.
“It’s fulfilling, we know how much we benefited from our trip and to know that other people are still going through things and looking forward to their wishes, it feels really good to know our work is going to allow someone else to meet Cinderella or be a superhero for a day or whatever it is they’d like to do, it feels good," said Allison Tanis.
“It’s humbling and it’s inspiring and it really makes you appreciate everything Make-A-Wish does.”
Lily has been battling her brain tumor since he was just six months old, a battle that's tested her family in ways her father, Matt, could not have ever imagined.
“It changes your perspective on a lot of things," he said. "You just become really grateful for all those experiences and little milestones you get to share with your child.”
The Tanis family walked in Saturday's event as "Team LilyBug," a nickname given to Lily when she was very young.
Last year, Make-a-Wish Michigan granted 366 wishes and Davis says they are on track to grant more than 400 this year. FOX 17 introduced viewers to one of those families last month when 14-year-old Ethan Miller and his family took off on a week-long trip to Hawaii, thanks to Make-a-Wish.