“The most astonishing thing about miracles is that they sometimes happen.”
One Simple Wish is a non-profit organization that has been making small miracles happen for foster children and vulnerable families since December of 2008.
As its mission statement points out: “We offer everyone a glimpse into the life of a child in foster care and connect people to create rewarding, meaningful relationships between those who want to give and those who need help. One Simple Wish believes in working together with a vast network of Community Partners throughout the United States. We positively impact the lives of thousands of children and families in need every year.”
One Simple Wish is the result of the vision, determination, and dedication of one woman: Danielle Gletow. She saw a need, and found a way to fill it.
“My husband and I had wanted to adopt a child in 2006, and we looked into all the options,” she explains. “We became foster parents with the hope of adopting. Over time, we had three foster children, aged two, 18 months, and six weeks.”
Eventually, they were able to adopt a baby girl through the foster care system, at about the same time that they had their biological daughter.
Their experience gave Ms. Gletow an insight into the world of foster care, providing her with information she had been unaware of previously. For example, she reports: “500,000 children are in foster care in the U.S. in the child welfare system. Of these, 100,000 children are legally available for adoption, but many are eight, nine and older, or special needs children. Foster care often includes multiple homes and institution placements, sometimes within the same year or even month. Nearly 58 percent of children in foster care are children of color.”
In addition, notes Ms. Gletow, more than 20,000 children age out of foster care every year, with little or no support. These young people are several times more likely to end up homeless, addicted to drugs, or incarcerated. It is estimated that more than 250,000 prisoners in the U.S. were once foster children.
Her own experience and the information she had gathered prompted Ms. Gletow to try to find a way to brighten the lives of foster children in some way.
“We had met so many children through case workers and friends in foster care that we wanted to do something,” she explains. “We wanted them to have the experiences a child with his or her own parents has.”
Ms. Gletow began with the idea of fulfilling wishes — small and large. “For example, a case worker knows if a child’s birthday is coming up, or if they have mentioned something they’d like to have.”
She came up with the plan to match the children’s wishes with donors who could fulfill them. “People can go on-line to our website to see what wishes the children have made, and then they can donate specifically for a wish request or give an unrestricted donation of any amount. A typical wish is $100. We then purchase the item, which can be shoes, clothing, games, scooters, skates, gymnastic lessons, movie tickets, visits to an amusement park, etc. We have also outfitted more than 1000 girls with prom dresses, shoes, and handbags. The wish candidates are aged from birth to 25.”
The program started in New Jersey, and then branched out. Ms. Gletow established a network of community partners, such as social service agencies, group homes, churches, schools, and other organizations that support children and families in need throughout the U.S. One Simple Wish is now in 36 states with 350 partners.
“We work with non-profit groups and agencies; there is no government funding for One Simple Wish. It’s all through individuals and corporations. We don’t feel the state welfare system is as well-structured as it could be. We continue to try our best to work closely with the Department of Children and Families as often as possible.”
One Simple Wish has grown in all ways since its beginning. In particular, donations, community partners, and its recognition factor have all expanded dramatically.
As Ms. Gletow reports. “We have grown from receiving $24,000 in donations the first year to more than $500,000 this year. And if you count the in-kind donations of toys, clothing, and personal care products, it is close to $1 million. We have received donations and grants from Walmart, PNC Bank, Staples, Janssen, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and PSE&G.”
Ms. Gletow has appeared on the “Making A Difference” segment of NBC Nightly New, and she was chosen as a CNN Hero — one of 24 selected from 10,000 nominees worldwide. Such recognition has been invaluable.
“Between NBC and CNN, One Simple Wish has continued to grow and grow. We now have five employees, and will open a branch office in Colorado. 5000 wishes have been granted to date — 95 percent of all the wishes requested. We have annual dinners to raise money and also to honor the kids. We award three $1000 scholarships to young people who have exemplified successful lives within a foster care environment.
“Last year, One Simple Wish had a tour of 30 cities around the country to grant wishes. It was 30 wishes in 30 cities in 30 days! We look forward to more of these, and this year, we will go to five states with seven stops in 10 days, and deliver 3000 gifts!”
May is Foster Care Awareness Month, and One Simple Wish will have a team running the Long Branch Marathon on May 5. Each team member is committed to raising $1000, which will be donated to the organization.
Ms. Gletow is rightfully proud of what she has achieved. With the support of her staff, concerned community groups, and individuals, she has put a remarkable program in place. “I am very proud to have created something that has gone on to create a life of its own. I have always believed in the innate goodness of people, and I haven’t been surprised that people are stepping up. If you give someone a way to make a real, meaningful difference, they want to be part of the solution.
“I love the fact that we have a truly immediate impact,” she continues. “It is memorable, an opportunity to make a child smile. We focus on those smiles. It also makes me proud and happy that I can leave a legacy, and one that is important for my children. My kids can see that you can find success and happiness that has nothing to do with making a lot of money.”
For more information on One Simple Wish, call (609) 883-8484. Website: www.onesimplewish.org.