"That Aunty Dina wouldn't be so sick anymore"
"This is for all the other kids still fighting their cancer"
"Wish for 6/49!"
These quotes were just a few that I heard while volunteering on a shift at the VanDusen Botanical Gardens Festival of Lights on a foggy January night at the start of 2018. In my capacity as an employee at Make-A-Wish, I decided it was high time I put in some extra hours at the Festival of Lights. You see, Make-A-Wish BC & Yukon is the long-time charitable partner of the event. During the entire run of the annual holiday spectacle, we as an organization are invited into VanDusen. Until now, I've helped with giving speeches at the annual launch event, done promotion and social media for the event, collected volunteer photos and tracked media mentions. But that's been it.
As for what we do at the event: we sell little Glowstar necklaces by donation in the entrance atrium. As well, tucked back in an unassuming corner of the garden, adjacent to a small, still pond, we occupy the Scottish Barn, which was first built in the garden in 1975.
We fill this barn with light.
Guests are invited to make a donation of any amount, and in return, they light a small candle, which is then placed upon the rock wall of the barn. Before the candle is placed on the wall, we tell people to make a wish on the candle they've lit.
I was moved by the genuine intent people brought to their wishes. Sure, some people simply said 'no worries' and walked away, but so many others paused in that quiet space, closed their eyes, took a deep breath, and really thought about a wish.
Some couples lit one candle together, and looked at each other intently with gentle, knowing smiles tugging at the corners of their mouths. Hoping for a baby? Marriage proposals? A second date? Only they know. Others wanted their own candle and their own moment. Another woman watched intently as her candle was carried to the wall, and then she stood there for a moment, hands together in silent prayer, before nodding, smiling, and walking off. Others wished for peace, for health.
It was lovely to see that, while their generous donations will go toward truly, truly granting a wish of a child battling a critical illness, our presence at the event also gave many people a moment of stillness and reflection for themselves.
And, as you can see from the photos, once all those wishes were made, it brought warm light to those cold stones. It felt like a nice way to kick off 2018, and a real responsibility to be the keeper of all those wishes for a night. Glad I did it, to gain a little deeper understanding of this major event for us, but also to watch people in their own moments of intent and focus. I lit a candle, too, quietly, and without much fuss, for a young friend of ours going through her own cancer battle.
"This is for Rachel, and her sister and mom and dad".
and yes, I made a donation :)
For a complete shift in gears, you're now invited to see what made 2017 a special year for me: enjoy my year in review video! Not so much quiet stillness as it is non-stop action :)
Cheers, and happy new year to you all!