Keeping the wish alive
Gary Sparkes has a soft spot in his heart for the Children’s Wish Foundation because it helped bring some much-needed smiles and happiness to his ailing twin grand-daughters before they passed away.
That’s why he and others went through such great lengths this past summer to ensure the foundation can perform similar acts of kindness for other children between the ages of three and 17 with life-threatening illness.
The Sparkes’ staged a charity golf tournament in Whiteway, Trinity Bay this summer in memory of Becky and Andrea Sparkes, and raised just over $18,000 for the foundation. That’s enough to grant two wishes.
“ We thought in their memories we would reciprocate and see how much we could raise for the foundation,” said Gary.
So they collected some pledge sheets from the foundation and handed them out to about 25 or 30 family and friends. When the Aug. 21 golf tournament was over, they tallied up $17,516.15. In the days after the tournament, another $500 in pledges came in.
Pledges came from as far away as Halifax and Alberta, and the Sparkes’ family covered all the expenses.
“It was successful beyond our expectations,” Gary said.
The identical twin girls, who were born Aug. 24, 2001 to parents Gary and Annette Sparkes of Shearstown, were diagnosed with Batten disease in 2005. Batten disease is a rare, fatal autosomal recessive neurodegenerative disorder that begins in childhood.
Becky passed away on Jan. 18, 2008, while Andrea died on Dec. 3, 2008.
The Children’s Wish Foundation granted each of them a special wish before they died. They travelled to Disney World in 2005, and the foundation purchased a home entertainment system for the girls in 2006. The two wishes were valued at roughly $18,000.
The gesture left an indelible mark on Gary and other members of his family.
The foundation is a national non-profit organization that grants an average of 900 wishes each year in Canada. It is able to do this thanks to the generous support of the public, corporate sponsors, planned gifts, donated goods and services and funds raised through special events.
Gary felt he could do his part to repay the foundation, and plans to make the charity golf tournament an annual event.
“ We started this event several years ago celebrate my great-grandfather Robert George’s 90th birthday,” Gary explained. “ When Becky and Andrea died, we decided to turn it into a memorial to them.”
It’s now called the Becky and Andrea Fun Fest, and Gary Sparkes couldn’t be more pleased with the results.
“Our wish is to keep it going and grant as many wishes as we can,” Gary stated last week.
Leah Sparkes, the older sister of Becky and Andrea Sparkes, presented a cheque recently to the Newfoundland and Labrador chapter of the Children’s Wish Founation. Taking part in the presentation were, from left, foundation co-ordinator Valerie Geary, Leah, foundation fund-raising co-ordinator Christine Morgan, and administrative assistant Christina Kearney.