Diane MacWilliams was used to hospitals. She'd been in and out of them for years due to her son's illness. She got to know other families, and felt the pain of their losses as well as her own.
Diane lost her son at age 5, but she did not lose the inspiration his short life brought her.
"He brought us into the world of a lot of families and children who could use something like Make-A-Wish. When you're there, you can't do much. You feel so awful because you grieve with them," she said.
After hearing about Make-A-Wish through a magazine article, Diane found out that they were interested in opening a chapter in the Chicago area and decided to do something. Teaming up with a number of other professionals in the communications field, Diane created Make-A-Wish Foundation of Northern Illinois' first Board of Directors in 1985.
For the first year, Make-A-Wish in this area was little more than an answering machine in Quicksilver, Diane's business office. Then in 1986, a Chicago Tribune article on the Foundation set the phone ringing. And it hasn't stopped since.
The Foundation has experienced a constant, and tremendous growth in its 15 years, growing more than Diane had ever imagined.
"I had no idea. I was totally innocent. Who could predict that it would get to be so large, but then again, why wouldn't it?" she said.
Diane attributed this growth to both the appeal of the organization and to the hard work of the volunteers and staff of Make-A-Wish. As soon as the "word got out", Chicago was happy to help, said Diane.
"It's got an incredible appeal. When people give, they see real results," she said. Although she no longer heads the Illinois chapter, Diane still takes pride in the organization which has so many personal memories for her, she said. She will always remember the personal satisfaction she felt at being able to help children who were in the same situation as her son. And she continues to serve the foundation as a member of the National organization's Board of Directors.
"It gives me comfort that the inspiration of my son's life continues to make other children happy," she said.
- 1985: The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central Illinois begins granting wishes across the state. Formed in late 1984, the group began organizing volunteers, funding and outreach so they could grant wishes.
- Oct. 1985 Make-A-Wish Foundation of Northern Illinois is founded by Diane MacWilliams, Elizabeth Benett Englehart and a few volunteers out of her Quicksilver office in Chicago
- 1986: Make-A-Wish Foundation of Northern Illinois grants 24 wishes
- 1988: The first black tie "Wish Ball" raises $25,000
- 1988: Make-A-Wish moves to its current location at 640 N. LaSalle
- 1993: The first Golf Outing is held
- 1993: 1000th wish is granted
- 1995: Mobil Oil supports Make-A-Wish with a $300,000 donation
- 1997: Northwestern University designates $286,000 of Dance Marathon proceeds toward granting children’s wishes
- 1997: 2000th wish is granted
- 1998: A Smashing Pumpkins benefit concert raises $500,000 for Make-A-Wish
- 2000: Make-A-Wish raises $340,000 at its Wish Ball, grants its 3000th wish and celebrates its 15th birthday!
- 2002: Make-A-Wish grants 4000th wish in Northern Illinois
- 2003: Make-A-Wish Foundation of Northern Illinois and Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central Illinois merge to cover 70 counties in Illinois under the name Make-A-Wish Foundation of Illinois
Make-A-Wish Foundation celebrates 20th Anniversary and more than 6,000 wishes granted.
- 2006: The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Illinois celebrates 20 years of magic with celebrations throughout the territory.
- 2007: The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Illinois now serves the entire state of Illinois, absorbing the southern Illinois counties previously served by another chapter.
- 2010: The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Illinois begins celebrating its 25th Anniversary in the fall. As the regions largest and most well-known wish granting organization, the Foundation has granted nearly 10,000 wishes across the state.
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