by Danielle Gletow, Founder & Executive Director of One Simple Wish
My childhood wasn’t perfect and I suspect many people would echo that sentiment. But while I certainly had my fair share of hard times, I always felt loved. My mother taught me how to make a special pasta dish that I still crave to this day. My sisters and I created intricate storylines with our dolls. My father took me out for slushies every time I went to the park with him to play tennis. There are so many memories of my childhood that are wonderful…the very good far outweighing the very bad. I think this is why I hold such a special place in my heart for kids who don’t have these memories. I had a lot of love to balance out the pain. I had a lot of good to soften the blows of the bad.
After all, childhood is supposed to be about imagination, wonder and playful curiosity. Childhood is supposed to be filled with birthday parties, exciting Christmas mornings and family vacations. It isn’t supposed to be about court appearances, sibling visits or stipends. Childhood shouldn’t be a constant source of stress and upheaval.
Yet this is the reality of childhood for nearly half a million children who end up in foster care in the United States every year. This is the reality for children who really just want the chance to be a kid – to enjoy the kind of childhoods that most of us had.
When I started One Simple Wish I hoped that what we were creating was going to give children so much more than the things they were wishing for. I wanted children who had been faced with some of the most traumatic and painful experiences to have the chance to create happier, more joyful memories. The wishes would not just be “stuff”, but rather opportunities to connect with other kids, to learn a new skill, to play a sport, to visit an amusement park, to replace some of the past pain with a newfound sense of comfort, hope and love.
It all started in NJ with one little boy who wanted to try scuba diving and I’m so proud to say that it has now grown to reaching more than 30,000 kids in 48 states through an incredible network of more than 700 agency partners. One Simple Wish is proving that it certainly does take a village to raise a child and that every piece of that village is just as vital as the next.
Last year we took our wish-granting mission one huge step further as we traveled more than 7,000 miles from NJ to CA highlighting the stories of 75 children in foster care that were waiting for a family to call their own. Legally free for adoption, most of these children had languished in the foster care system for years and years – moving from one place to another, learning new routines, new names and new rules along the way. Their adaptability and resilience astounded me. Their desire to be loved crushed me. But knowing that we were providing a new platform for people to reach them continues to inspire me.
May is National Foster Care Awareness Month and I am asking everyone this month to think back to one positive, happy childhood memory. Chances are you have a ton to choose from. Think about how that moment still makes you feel today, how the people around you made you feel then and make you feel now. And now I ask that you do something with that feeling. Share it. Whether you choose to grant a simple wish to a child in foster care at www.onesimplewish.org or you choose to go a step further in offering help to a waiting child at www.ultimatewish.org, I just ask that you do something because if you believe you deserved all those beautiful childhood memories you had then you must believe that all children deserve them too…right?
One Simple Wish is a proud sponsor of NCFA’s Great Expectations Gala and we look forward to sharing more of our children’s stories at the event in November!
Danielle Gletow has been a passionate advocate for children’s rights for nearly two decades. Danielle is the Founder & Executive Director of One Simple Wish, an organization empowers everyone to make a direct and meaningful difference in the lives of foster children and at-risk youth one simple wish at a time.
Danielle has appeared on numerous television and radio shows including CNN, NBC Nightly News, The Katie Couric Show and The Nate Berkus Show and has been featured in many print publications including The Star Ledger, The Christian Science Monitor, The Washington Post and Woman’s World, among others. In October 2013, Danielle was chosen as a Top 10 CNN Hero among tens of thousands of nominees worldwide.
Danielle is a blogger for The Huffington Post and frequently speaks at schools, universities and businesses sharing her journey into the world of foster care and her bold move of leaving a lucrative career in marketing to follow her passion.
Danielle currently resides in Central NJ with her husband, Joe, their two amazing daughters, Mia and Lily, and their two beloved dogs Duncan and Alice.