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Publish date: Jul 28, 2011

Make-A-Wish family thankful for DII efforts

Over the course of its seven-year relationship with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Division II Student-Athlete Advisory Committee has overseen efforts to raise more than $1.5 million to assist young people with life-threatening health conditions. At the Division II SAAC-Management Council Summit on Saturday, the student-athletes heard first-hand from the Bill Steadman family, which benefited over the last winter from their efforts.

By Bill Steadman
For NCAA.org

You don’t often get a chance to say “thank you” while providing a little education at the same time. The Steadman family got that opportunity last Saturday when we met with 25 Division II student-athletes from across the country and spoke with them about our experience with Make-A-Wish.

Bill Steadman (front row, left) and daughters Emily and Sara joined the DII SAAC last week to thank them in person for their Make-A-Wish efforts.

It was a special day for us and, hopefully, for the athletes as well.

First, we are truly are grateful for what thousands of Division II student-athletes have accomplished for Make-A-Wish. We know they are busy in so many ways, and for them to make time to participate speaks to the values of Division II. To those who have contributed to this effort, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Beyond being grateful, I want to relate to all Division II student-athletes why I hope they stick with the program.

Our daughter Emily was born eight years ago with mitochondrial disorder. It’s a cellular dysfunction that can impact every system in the body. It’s a progressive disorder that can severely compromise the life of the afflicted individual.

In the course of working with Emily’s physicians, we found out that individuals diagnosed with this disorder were eligible to have a Wish granted. In a time when we received difficult news, the Wish was something positive to look forward to and imagine the possibilities for Emily.

We made the decision to pursue Emily’s Wish in 2010, and I would like to describe to you a little bit about our trip and what that experience meant for our family.

Emily has always liked to go fast, be it on a roller coaster or riding a bike, so we thought that a snow-skiing Wish might be a good one. We sent in the request to talk to Make-A-Wish, and they sent a team to our home to discuss the possibilities and gather all of Emily’s needs for the trip. The Make-A-Wish Team then did some research and discovered that Winter Park Resort in Colorado was home to the National Center for Disabled Athletes and among the world leaders in accommodating disabled individuals.

After much time and effort on the behalf of the Make-A-Wish Team, Emily’s Wish was granted. The granting of a Wish can be a massive undertaking when you consider all of the things that have to be accounted for. Wheelchairs, medications, living accommodations and transportation were just a few of the many hurdles that needed to be overcome for Emily. In many ways, those obstructions are often what prevent families in our circumstance from being able to get away in the first place. One of the things we appreciated most about Make-A-Wish is that they addressed all of those concerns and required very little of our time to do so.

The morning we left for our trip, we were greeted by a big limo, which was exciting not only for Emily but also for our other daughter, Sara. When we arrived in Winter Park, there was a big sign that said “Welcome Emily and Sara!” There were gifts and gift baskets for the entire family, including Sara. Siblings of children with special needs face many unique challenges, and many times those challenges can unintentionally be overlooked. The way the Wish included Sara was one of the best parts of the experience. This was about our family, not just Emily.

It was bitter cold the first day, which was the day Emily went skiing. They had a “sit ski” arrangement, which was a lot of fun since Emily got to go fast.

Next was a hot-air balloon ride, followed the next day by the highlight of the trip: the dog-sled ride. For 90 minutes straight, my wife Beth rode with Emily while I rode with Sara through the forest in the Rockies. Later that afternoon more speed came along with an adventure to a tubing hill! The girls loved it – and so did we! Then came a snow-cat ride, where we were able to tour the mountain on an adapted version of the snow-grooming equipment.

Those are just a few of the many activities and experiences we had in Colorado. You can imagine what a great time we had.

So, what did this mean to us?

The red-carpet treatment was great, and making the girls – both of them – feel special was even greater. The time afforded to us to just relax, enjoy each other’s company and have fun is something that we will treasure forever and most certainly never forget. This could not have been made possible without the hard work and planning of many people, both at Winter Park and Make-A-Wish. I don’t know if Beth and I could have managed planning a trip of this magnitude without the assistance from Make-A-Wish, so, in that sense, this was as much a Wish-come-true for Beth and me as it was for Emily.

Unfortunately, there are many other families out there who have stories similar to ours. Their afflicted children have the same hopes and dreams as Emily and certainly deserve to have those dreams realized. I hope every one of them gets it.

Efforts like those of the Division II athletes are what make those dreams come true. To the Division II student-athletes, I say this: You’re doing a great thing by helping Make-A-Wish. Thank you again for all that you are doing to help make wishes for many other families come true.