Members of NYA’s Make-A-Wish club hosted a tiki bar fundraiser on the last day of school last year that brought in about $1,000 in donations. They hope to host the same event this year. Contributed / North Yarmouth Academy

For some North Yarmouth Academy students, the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s work is personal. For others, it’s a cause they simply feel passionate about.

Now in its 20th year, students in the school’s Make-A-Wish Club recently donated $7,000, the average cost to grant a wish in Maine, to Make-A-Wish Maine to make a difference for children in their home state.

The nonprofit Make-A-Wish Foundation raises funds to boost the wellbeing of children ages 2½ to 18 with critical illnesses. In the two decades the local club has been active, it has raised over $60,000 to fund about 11 wishes.

“The Make-A-Wish Club is super special to me because I have a friend who had cancer and he got a wish granted by the Make-A-Wish Club,” said Chas Rohde, a senior. “It meant a lot to him to have that wish, so I want to continue to give back so even more people can have that experience.”

The club isn’t sure if they’ll get to see what wish their recent donation fulfills because that isn’t always made public, but in the past they were able to see their donation go directly to provide a young girl with a passion for photography with high-quality camera equipment.

It took the club about three years to raise the most recent amount for a wish, but it typically takes two. Academic advisor Liz Smith said the pandemic affected the club’s ability to host some of its fundraisers, including a concert.

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“There’s been a continual increase of students that are really engaged and want to raise as much money as they possibly can,” Smith said. “I’m really happy for them, especially for the seniors because they’ve been involved for several years and get to see their wish granted. Some seniors graduate before they get to see that.”

The state organization is on track to fund to 75 wishes this year and one of those specifically will be granted in honor of NYA’s Make-A-Wish club as a thank you to the students, according to Make-A-Wish Maine Communications Manager Meredith Plaud.

Last fall, Make-A-Wish Maine also presented the NYA club with the Brendan Batson Award, which recognizes Maine youth “who give substantial time and energy” to support the organization’s mission.

“The MakeAWish Club’s continued support over two decades is inspirational and we are so grateful,” said Samantha Elliott, the state organization’s event manager.

For the 2022-23 school year, Unum will match the NYA club’s fundraising dollars, up to $15,000.

“That’s going to be really helpful because it took a while for us to raise this much money for the wish we just granted, so it’ll be that much quicker if we stay on the same pace that we did for this past wish,” junior Emma Gagnon said.

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“It’s definitely more motivating to know that we only have to raise half as much money and if we do still raise another $7,000 then we can grant two wishes, which is even better,” junior Sarah English said.

Moving forward, the club is holding a schoolwide bingo fundraiser on April 29 and hopes to again host a tiki bar fundraiser that raised $1,000 last year. They may also serve a before-school breakfast for students one day.

The club, which meets during lunch on Fridays in Smith’s classroom, is always accepting new members. Those interesting in donating to the club but who are not students or staff, can contact Smith directly at [email protected]

“It feels really great seeing all our work pay off,” senior Emma Rothrock said. “NYA is such a tight-knit community and to see everyone participate for the good of someone else, it just feels really good.”

NYA’s Make-A-Wish Club, which consists of 38 mostly upper school students, presented Make-A-Wish Maine with a check for $7,000 March 25. It took the students about three years to raise the funds, which will go towards a wish for a critically ill child. Contributed / North Yarmouth Academy

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