The Cardozas Making Wishes Come True for Ailing Kids
By Gary VanDeWalker
By Gary VanDeWalker
Photos by paulsakuma.com/Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area®
The ringing phone brought a gift Randy and Paula Cardoza wanted to reject. When the representative from Make-A-Wish told them their family had been referred and their daughter, Taylor, was eligible for a wish, they feared the worst. They assumed the referral meant their daughter’s brain tumor was terminal. As time passed, a wish granted to swim with dolphins, a trip to Disney World and a healthy child would prove them wrong. The door opened to an adventure they never imagined.
Make-A-Wish began in 1980. The Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area chapter opened in 1984, granting 27 wishes in its first year. It has since granted more than 8,000 wishes – an average of 375 per year. Its mission is straightforward: “We grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.”
Encouraged by Taylor’s recovery and the uplifting experience with Make-A-Wish, the Cardozas wanted to pay it forward. “I opened the local paper one day and there it was, a request for volunteers,” Randy says. “Paula and I could make up a Wish Team in Siskiyou County. After an extensive background check, we were trained to meet with medically eligible children and discover their ‘one true wish.’ “
After a child is referred to Make-A-Wish, the Cardozas meet with the family. One helps the parents complete paperwork while the other talks with the child, looking to discover his or her perfect day or one true wish. The child is asked many questions: What do you wish to be? What do you want to see? Where do you want to go? What is your favorite color, book, food and movies? This information is forwarded to a team to craft the wish into reality. Each wish is crafted to the individual, listening to what the child wants beyond any outside influences. “This is as close to magic as the child will ever experience,” Paula says.
While trips to Disney Parks are the most requested wish, those granted are as unique as the children referred. “We’ve seen children receive a puppy, a bedroom make-over and a day with the rock band Journey,” Paula says. “The idea is to create a day for the child to look forward to and look beyond their condition, the appointments and procedures.”
The Cardoza Wish Team met with a young boy from Tulelake with leukemia. “Miles hid behind a recliner in his Batman PJs,” Paula says. “I asked him what his wish was and he replied, ‘To be Batman.’ When I asked why, he said in a quiet voice, ‘Because I dream about it.’”
The wish and all the information gathered was sent to the organization. The decision was made to do a recreation of Gotham City in San Francisco and make Miles a partner with Batman. As the wish fulfillment was planned, it grew bigger and bigger. “Everyone wanted to be involved,” Randy says.
On November 15, 2013, Miles’ wish became one of the largest and grandest wishes ever fulfilled, as thousands of people lined the streets and Miles spent the day saving the city with Batman. More than 12,000 people volunteered to make the wish come true. Since the event, it has been made into a 2015 documentary, “Batkid Begins.” Julia Roberts has announced she will be producing and acting in a movie of the event, “Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around the World.”
“Paula and I were just spectators that day,” Randy says. “We got a brief chance to wave at Miles from a distance. It was amazing to see what his wish had become.”
The Cardozas continue to volunteer as a Wish Team. “What began as a gift to our daughter has become even a bigger gift to us,” Paula says. “Living in a small town, we often run into wish recipients months and years later. They run up to us with a smile and simply say, ‘Hey, I know you.’ And that is enough.”