Background Make-A-Wish UK is an international children’s charity aiming to improve the lives of children with life-threatening medical conditions and their families by granting wishes of their choice, to children aged 3–18 years old. Examples might include meeting a celebrity, going on a special holiday or shopping spree. The purpose of this research was to explore how children, young people and families experience making a wish and having a wish granted. This is important for understanding the impact wishes have on family health and wellbeing, how wishes create this impact and how the impact can be improved.
Aim To understand the experience and impact of Make-A-Wish UK wishes on children with life threatening health conditions and their families.
Method In-depth semi-structured interviews were carried out with 22 families (21 parents; 18 young people); 7 charity volunteers; 5 health professionals, recruited from across the UK. Participants were selected to reflect variation in child age, health condition, wish type, region and stage in the wish-making/granting journey. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically.
Results Wishes frequently exceeded family’s expectations, being described as ‘special’, ‘magical’, ‘miracle’, ‘perfect’, ‘unbelievable’. All participants felt the child’s wish experience had a significant and positive impact on families’ lives. Benefits included providing new experiences; distraction/respite from illness and treatment; opening up ‘new horizons’ (unlocking potential and increasing future prospects); increasing child and parent confidence, energy, self-esteem, joy and happiness; facilitating families to create happy memories; supporting child recovery and engagement with treatment; facilitating the opportunity to be a ‘normal’ family. There was some suggestion that ‘added extras’ that personalise wishes and which go ‘above and beyond’ the desired wish contribute to their impact, as did the timing of the wish. Wishes were thought to have different impacts depending on the wish type and child’s condition/treatment.
Conclusion Participants reported that families experienced improvements in their quality of life because of the wish they received. To increase and maintain this impact, consideration should be given to the timing of wishes; increasing anticipation; developing strategies to ‘keep the wish alive’; facilitating families to share their experiences and ‘give back’ to the community.
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