PUNXSUTAWNEY — Punxsutawney will be wishing away next week as the Greater Pennsylvania and Southern West Virginia chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation kicks off its annual "Light Up A Child's Life" campaign.
The week-long campaign, which will be aired live on WPXZ-FM 104.1, begins Monday at Ragley's True Value Hardware from 6 to 9 a.m. and at the Pantall Hotel from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Wish kids will share their wish-come-true stories on the air, and "celebrity" benefactors — including Mayor James Wehrle, guest-starring Monday — will make appearances all week.
Donations will be accepted at 938-8888 with the live radio auction set for 3 p.m. Friday, Dec. 17, according to regional office assistant Kayla Danch.
"We just really appreciate all of the donations," she said. "It's just a great thing to see the children's faces when they're happy and their wishes come true. It's just amazing."
The Make-A-Wish Foundation, a non-profit organization that grants wishes to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy, has been placing smiles on the faces of chronically ill children since 1980.
According to Danch, children with eligible, life-threatening illnesses — including but not limited to various forms of cancer, heart disease, muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis and organ transplants, or chronic conditions coupled with other complications — ages two-and-a-half to 18, qualify for consideration to receive a once-in-a-lifetime wish.
The ultimate deciding factor, she said, lies on the shoulders of the child's doctor.
The Greater Pennsylvania and Southern West Virginia Chapter, founded in 1983, with six regional offices, including one in Punxsutawney, grants 700 wishes a year, 65 of which are wished by area children.
Granted wishes, Danch said, give the family time to be together and allow the child to "escape from doctors" and be "normal."
"That wish can just change the child's life," she said.
The chapter has granted a multitude of wishes, including shopping sprees, celebrity meetings, travel destinations, bedroom makeovers, swimming pools and, of course, the most commonly wished wish: A trip to Disney World.
Wishes, Danch said, are "limited only to the child's imagination."
To refer a child, Danch said, simply give the regional office a call at 938-8888; visit the chapter Web site at www. wishgreaterpa.com; or mail in a referral form to the foundation at 312 W. Mahoning St., Punxsutawney.