Wishing Tree Reveals Desires of Special Needs Families

Connecting for Kids Wishing Tree-1I wish bullies weren’t so mean; I wish people would accept me, autism and all; and I wish that I could see. These are just some of the wishes that children with special needs have added to the Connecting for Kids’ Wishing Tree which features more than 300 wishes submitted by area families, community supporters and local students. The tree will be on display from November 17 through the holiday season at Barnes & Noble at Crocker Park, 198 Crocker Park Blvd. in Westlake.

“We wanted to build something amazing in our community and we are so excited to see it all come together,” said Sarah Rintamaki, Executive Director of Connecting for Kids. “We have two goals with the Wishing Tree. One is to raise awareness in the community about what it’s like to have a child with special needs. The second is to demonstrate that even though a family may have a child who struggles, their wishes are similar to any other family.

One parent wrote that her wish is not to have to remind her sons to wash their hands every time they leave the bathroom –I think all parents can relate to that wish.”

Other parent wishes are more serious:

– I wish that the milestones her peers meet naturally didn’t take her years of therapy.

– I wish there was a cure for epilepsy.

– I wish my child could make and keep friends.

– I wish that this would be the year that we hear our son say, “Mom,” “Dad,” and “I love you.”

– I wish I didn’t feel judged as being a “bad” parent when my child acts out in public.

Wishing Tree Leaves Close Up-2The 7-foot, white and silver tree is being sponsored by St. John Medical Center and Five Guys at the Promenade at Crocker Park. In addition to wishes, the tree also features family photos, holiday greetings and messages of support from area professionals, educators and community members. More than 150 wishes were submitted by students from Hilliard Elementary in Westlake and McKinley Elementary in Elyria who participated in the Connecting for Kids’ Beyond the BenchSM Training Program this fall.

Additional messages will be added to the tree once a week throughout the holiday season. If you would like to purchase a leaf for $10, simply visit cfk.gobigfundraising.com. All proceeds are 100% tax deductible and benefit Connecting for Kids. Monies raised will be used to fund free, parent education programming in the coming year.

“I find myself tearing up as I read the wishes submitted by these children and their families as they are just so heartfelt and moving,” said Rintamaki. “We invite you to take a few minutes and view the Wishing Tree as you are shopping during this busy time of year. I think it will give you a new perspective.” Please share your photos of the Wishing Tree on Facebook and Instagram with #cfkwishingtree.

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