BLOOMINGTON - When 11-year-old Cassius Anderson was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma a month before his birthday in April 2006, his mother couldn't imagine what he was going through.
"The shots were working double-time on his bones and he went through three months of chemotherapy," Brenda Anderson said.
Now, nearly 10 months after his illness has cleared, Cassius has memories from a birthday trip on a Bahamas Disney Cruise with his Make-A-Wish wish granter, Shauna Thompson, and others.
With photo album in hand, Cassius said he "wasn't scared" to swim with sting rays and didn't get seasick.
The May 19 cruise, which included a 24-hour ice cream parlor and fireworks on his birthday, had been in the works since his family first met Thompson, a wish captain from Bloomington, in January.
Thompson met with Cassius' family as they left for the trip and talked to him before his plane left. "It left at 7:15 a.m., and he was worried about being able to go to sleep," she said.
This summer, Make-A-Wish of Illinois plans to grant a record number of wishes, prompting a need for more wish-granter volunteers in the area. In June, the organization will grant a record 95 wishes, up about a dozen from last year, said community relations manager Janet Bantz Glavin.
There are 44 wish granters in the Bloomington/Peoria area.
Thompson has granted about 30 wishes in the five years she's been volunteering. After working at State Farm Insurance Cos. for many years, she wanted to get back to working with kids.
"Being a wish granter let me do that directly," she said. "This experience can bring back joy to a family."
She is area wish captain, assigning wishes and assisting new granters.
Wish granters complete a day-long training session, learning about the foundation's history and the goal of the wish experience, all aimed to help a child realize the true essence of his or her wish, Glavin said. Once trained, granters work in pairs.
Tracey Vincent of Normal, who was trained last fall, is granting her third wish. The experience has made her realize that even one person can make a difference.
"Seeing their reaction, you know that they aren't thinking about their illness," Vincent said.
Besides wish granting, volunteers can donate time and skills to a wish or donate frequent flyer miles.
Thompson's experiences - from granting Disney trips to remodeling rooms - has made her appreciate her family's health.
"I tell my boys all the time, they're so lucky to have their health," she said. "These (Make-A-Wish) kids are my heroes."
How to help
For information about how to become a wish granter, visit www.wish.org or call Janet Bantz Glavin, community relations manager, at (309)-637-1659 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The next wish-granter training session will be Aug. 4 in Springfield.
What: Dawson Lake 5K run/walk and Kids' half-mile run to benefit Make-A-Wish of Illinois
When: Aug. 11
Where: Moraine View State Park
What else: To register or for information, visit www.lakerunclub.org/
What: CPCU Society's eighth annual golf outing to benefit Make-A-Wish of Illinois
When: Aug. 27
Where: Crestwicke Country Club, Bloomington
What else: For information, e-mail email@example.com or call (309) 825-6738