For the past 15 years, DeWayne Wadsworth has celebrated his October birthday by purchasing a couple of tickets and taking one of his adult kids or his grandkids with him to enjoy a Boise State home football game.
“Everybody needs to experience at least one college game in their lives,” Wadsworth says. “I couldn’t afford season tickets, but I always got to one or two games a year.”
“We’d come early and roam around with all the tailgaters. You meet some great people. Some of them have TV screens out in the parking lot that are just about as big as the old ones they had in the stadium.”
“I’ve been a fan a long time, through thick and thin, good or bad — even though I didn’t like that Nevada game where they beat us by a field goal. I’m not bitter,” he says with a laugh, and then ponders that 2010 loss again with incredulity. “We lost to Nevada by a field goal. ... ”
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On Oct. 20, Wadsworth was back at Albertsons Stadium for the Broncos game against BYU — but this year is different.
Suffering from emphysema and in the final stages of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, he was wheeled into the Allen Noble Hall of Fame in his wheelchair by his grandson Alex Wood with daughter Michele Alidjani and granddaughter Marissa Jones following closely behind.
“This is my last game. It means everything. This is special to me — I don’t want to get all tearing up now — but ya, it’s special.”
“My daughter was acquainted with Wishgranters and sent them an email letting them know I am terminal — I have about six months to live — and that I’d like to go to one more game. Wishgranters made it all happen with Boise State’s help. I received a letter from the Bronco Athletic Department, and they told me they were putting me up in the skybox for the game and to bring my family. Very special.”
“Ever since we have put this wish together, DeWayne has been counting down the days to the game,” said Kelly Gibbons, executive director of Wishgranters.
That Thursday, three days before his 63rd birthday, was Wadsworth’s touchdown.
Dusty Clements, the associate athletic director for development at Boise State, met up with the family inside the Hall of Fame in front of the trophy case where Wadsworth was admiring the Broncos’ three Fiesta Bowl trophies. Along with the passes for four Stueckle Sky Center seats, Clements also delivered a game jersey and a ball cap for Wadsworth, who didn’t hesitate to momentarily remove his oxygen so that he could put them both on.
“We will never forget this memory,” says Wadsworth’s daughter Michele.
“It is amazing to witness all the good things that we are able to do for people because of the generosity of our community,” Gibbons says. “The main thing we provide are memories. That is what we create.”
Wishgranters carries out wishes to adults who have terminal illnesses. “It is our mission to come into the lives of these adults and by granting a wish, give them something to look forward to and their families a memory they can have forever,” Gibbons says.
Wishgranters was formed in the Treasure Valley in 2010 by Doug Raper, who had worked at another wish-granting organization.
While some national organizations exist that grant wishes for adults, Raper believed more could be done by bringing together the local community with specific opportunities. That year, he was able to grant one wish. The following year, the nonprofit granted another 29 wishes throughout Ada and Canyon counties.
From 2012 through 2015, Wishgranters averaged 50 completed wishes a year. This year, the group is on track to do it again — fulfilling one wish per week.
Of the 52 wishes granted in 2015, 19 of them were travel wishes.
There were destination trips to Disneyland, Disney World, Hawaii and to see the Northern Lights. Other trips were to see family members in a neighboring state or to gather folks for family reunions.
Some of the wishes were for items — cable TV, a computer, cellphones, a power lift, a new puppy and an electric scooter that could navigate through sand for fishing trips. And some requests were for projects — many of them based on immediate need — a wheelchair ramp, bathroom remodel, roof repair and new flooring.
The average cost of a wish is $1,750.
Passing the baton
Gibbons started as the development coordinator last December and took on the role of executive director when Raper retired this summer. She works out of a small office on Orchard Street in Boise that has been donated to the organization.
“There isn’t much overhead. About 90 percent of what is donated goes directly into the programs.”
She waves her arm around the small room, pointing out the donated chairs, fixtures and computer.
“We want to ensure that the generosity of the donors can make the biggest impact on the people, not the organization.”
The office walls are covered with photographs of people getting their wishes granted. Each one is a story, and Gibbons is passionate to share if you have the time to listen.
“Sometimes, the wishes are so selfless,” Gibbons says. “It really impacts you when you see a person who is terminally ill but their focus in on leaving behind something special for their loved ones. They can be so selfless that it is very difficult to get them to ask for anything for themselves.”
In March 2014, five months before she died from metastatic breast cancer, Trina Klier-Murri was granted a wish to take her husband, Kent, and 9-year-old son, Connor, to the Virgin Islands to soak up the Caribbean sun and have adventures together. One highlight for them was the sea lions.
“Connor and I swam with sea lions at Coral World, St. Thomas USVI. They are like big dogs! Cute and cuddly. Our vacation was amazing. Truly a vacation of a lifetime,” Klier-Murri posted on her Facebook wall with photos.
They also ran into Harrison Ford on the beach.
“Hidden star surprise today! ... Nice man! I was nice and respectful, and he showed gratitude by allowing a picture (with Connor). We shook hands and talked very briefly. Too cool!”
Klier-Murri knew she didn’t have long to live, but she spent a lot of her energy on creating memories for the son that she knew she would be leaving behind. Experiencing those special moments together was her “real” wish. And it was granted.
This is the fifth article in a five-part series about local organizations that formed to help patients and families cope with cancer diagnoses and other illnesses. Read the previous articles on the Idaho Statesman website at IdahoStatesman.com.
Chad Estes is a Boise photographer and writer who is an active cancer advocate. His project, “The Reveal Mission,” showcases stories of breast cancer survivors and fighters. He credits his friend Trina Klier-Murri for inspiring him to write about cancer.
How to help Wishgranters
Wishgranters’ funding comes from a variety of grants, fundraisers, individual donors, legacy gifts and donations of services and materials.
Executive Director Kelly Gibbons also is working to create a new sponsorship program.
“Our goal is to have clubs, businesses, organizations and individuals be able to sponsor various wishes. We would help connect the right opportunity with the right donor so they could actually get to interact with the family, making a connection with them, and really see where their donation is going.”
The organization also wants to expand beyond Ada and Canyon counties, granting wishes throughout Idaho. Gem County has one of the highest cancer rates in the state and is the group’s next target.
70 percent of the wishes granted are for those with a terminal cancer.
A list of upcoming wishes for this year can be found on the Wishgranters’ website at wishgranters.org.
A few are listed below. If you can help, contact Gibbons at 377-9029 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Terence has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and wants to go fishing at Lake Cascade.
Brett has cancer and wants to go to Disney World with his family.
Lindsey has cancer and wants to go to the Napa Valley.
Julie has heart disease and wants new carpet for her living room.
Pamela has cancer and wants to go on a houseboat on Lake Powell.
Cheryl has cancer and wants a hot air balloon ride.
Lisa has cancer and wants to go to Yellowstone with her family.
Maxine has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and wants new skirting for her mobile home.
Ronald has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and wants to see the band Social Distortion.
Visit the Wishgranters Facebook page for upcoming news and events.