Rochester, Mich. (WXYZ) – Funeral services for boxing great Muhammad Ali are set for this week in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky but the former heavyweight champion also had strong ties to the state of Michigan.
Ali lived in Berrien Springs in southwest Michigan for nearly two decades. He also had a historical tie to the Rainbow Connection, a Rochester-based non-profit that grants wishes to Michigan children with life-threatening illnesses.
On July 26, 1985, Ali made a special visit to 16-year old John Bowden at Children’s Hospital in Detroit.
“Muhammad Ali made the very first wish come true for the Rainbow Connection,” said Mary Grace McCarter, the organization’s executive director. “You can’t get anymore significant than that.”
While the former boxing champion’s visit was set up specifically for John, it did not surprise McCarter that Ali spent time with other children receiving treatment on the floor that day.
“He really showed the magic of making a dream come true,” said McCarter of Ali’s visit. “Not just that day for John Bowden but for us to know to keep forging ahead, that making a dream come true for a child who’s so sick is a deal changer for everybody.”
Since that very first wish, Rainbow Connection has granted 3,113 others, including 162 in 2015. The wish board in the Rainbow Connection office displays photos of dozens of other children who will see their dream come true in the months ahead.
“Kids wish to go somewhere or to get something or to meet someone, like Muhammad Ali, to meet someone famous that they would never, ever otherwise meet,” she said.
The gesture by Ali brought some joy to the 16-year old during a most difficult time. John died a few days later but the memory of the visit and its impact on the teen remains with his family members to this day.
DIMONDALE, Mich (WLNS) – It’s not just a good day for 5-year-old Aidyn Sharrow.
It’s a life-changing day.
The little guy is the newest honorary Michigan State Police trooper and it’s all thanks to The Rainbow Connection.
Aidyn is currently fighting leukemia and it was his wish to join the men and women in blue.
Aidyn and his family are spending the whole day with troopers, getting to see the canine units up close in action and even riding in a MSP helicopter.
For troopers involved in Aidyn’s special day it’s means the world to see a smile on his face.
“Here’s an opportunity for us to bring some happiness to a young man’s life and to his family and to let the public know that their Michigan State Police are out to protect them and to serve them with a true purpose,” said MSP First Lt. Troy Allen.
The “Rainbow Connection”, which granted Aidyn’s wish, helps make dreams come true for Michigan children dealing with life-threatening conditions.
Media Contact: Andrea Walker-Leidy
Six-year-old Conner from Davison is just like any other boy on the outside. But, diagnosed with Hemophilia as an infant, Conner has been through more in his six years than most of us will go through in a lifetime.
“It is a fear for every parent that their child might fall and hit their head but that fear is a lot more severe for a child who has hemophilia,” said Malysa, Conner’s mom. A fall is life threatening.
After hearing about The Rainbow Connection, an organization that makes dreams come true for Michigan children with life threatening illnesses, Conner’s mom, Malysa, contacted them and learned Connor would indeed have a dream come true.
At his first meeting with The Rainbow Connection, Conner was already excited. Mom explained he was treated “like a little king”. “Our first meeting with Nancy, Wish Coordinator from Rainbow Connection, was beyond anything I could have imagined,” said Malysa, Conner’s mother. “She greeted Conner with a huge bag full of fun things from Legos to coloring books. Conner was so excited!”
Conner told Nancy he wanted to go on Mickey’s boat, something he’d been talking about with his parents. “We’d seen a special on television about Disney cruises and Conner was glued to it,” said Malysa. “He kept telling us for weeks that he wanted to go on ‘Mickey’s boat’.”
Conner’s dream came true in January of this year when the Rainbow Connection sent him and his family to the Western Caribbean on a very special Disney Cruise.
After a limo ride to the airport, Conner and his family were flown to Miami to the cruise trip departing to Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. One night, after a special meet-and-greet with Captain Mickey, Conner came back to his room to find that Mickey had stopped by and left him a stuffed animal and a special framed photo from their visit. “We had experiences that no one else is able to have on the cruise,” said Malysa. “It was so memorable for Conner.”
Conner has had a rough couple of months since he’s been home from his Rainbow Connection wish trip. “Conner was hospitalized at U of M for two weeks with a severe infection,” Malysa explained. “He has had four surgeries since we have been back and Conner will finally get back to school in April.”
“Rainbow Connection is an amazing organization for children that endure life threatening illnesses. Even after the wish they offer opportunities throughout the year for special events that we can attend as a family as a getaway from the craziness that we call life,” said Malysa.
“They also host an annual picnic where the kids can play games and earn prizes which makes them feel normal even for the day which is huge in the eyes of these children. When a child is having a difficult time they will send packages to the kids full of activities and little things that help cheer them up during such difficult times. It is an amazing organization and I cannot thank them enough for everything that they have done for my family.”
Rainbow Connection goes above and beyond for children that go through so much already. And, even though hemophilia is treatable, it is not curable. Like many of The Rainbow Connection’s Wish Children, Conner will live with his condition forever.
Offering comfort, hope and joy, The Rainbow Connection of Michigan makes dreams come true for Wish Children like Conner every day. Nationally ranked 4-stars by Charity Navigator, the organization also provides emergency services, annual Wish Family events and college scholarships to its Wish children.
The Rainbow Connection is funding exclusively by individual and corporate donations. To find out more about The Rainbow Connection, including the very first dream come true in 1982 when 14-year-old John Bowden met his idol, Mohammad Ali visit www.rainbowconnection.org.
Photos attached courtesy of The Rainbow Connection.
Conner’s dream come true thanks to The Rainbow Connection. Conner and his mother enjoy the Disney Cruise with step-father Alex.
Media Contact: Andrea Walker-Leidy
Romeo High School Students Raise Funds to
Make Dreams Come True for Three Michigan Children Suffering from Life Threatening Illnesses
Romeo High School students take their annual Charity Week very seriously, raising thousands of dollars every year for charity. This year The Rainbow Connection leaders and wish parents stood speechless as the entire student body entertained the two wish children attending their Charity Week Friday Assembly. Mary Grace McCarter, Executive Director was so moved as she accepted their check for more than $18,000, she tells us “there were really no words to say. These students really get it. They are all making it happen- the artists, the dancers, the musicians, the athletes-everyone is all in. The air is filled with this terrific energy and the community reaps the benefit of their accomplishments”.
“Rainbow Connection has a special place in the hearts of Romeo High School,” said Amber Fountain, Romeo High School Guidance Counselor. “Our kids love helping kids! We have loved every minute of getting to know the special people Rainbow Connection helps and we especially love helping wishes come true.”
This year, thanks to Romeo High School, 14 year old Sara from Fairhaven went on her dream come true shopping spree at Somerset Mall; Four- year-old Aiden and his family, from Commerce will be going to Disney World in March; and five-year-old Penelope from Northville and her family will go to Disney World later this spring when the doctor gives approval following her cancer
Offering comfort, hope and joy, The Rainbow Connection makes dreams come true for Michigan children with life threatening illnesses. A nationally ranked 4-stars by Charity Navigator, the organization also provides emergency services, annual Wish Family events and college scholarships to its Wish children.
To find out more about The Rainbow Connection, including the very first dream come true in 1982 when 14-year-old John Bowden met his idol, Mohammad Ali visit www.rainbowconnection.org.
(ROCHESTER, MI–) (February 15, 2016) Since its humble beginning in 1982, The Rainbow Connection has been making dreams come true for Michigan children with life threatening illnesses. The Rainbow Connection, a 4-Star Charity Navigator organization, recently celebrated granting its 3000th wish.
Founded by Oakland County Executive, L. Brooks Patterson, in honor of Ron Dobson and his two children who were killed tragically in a plane crash, The Rainbow Connection began raising funds to fulfill special wishes for Michigan children who were fighting for their lives.
From that very first wish when John Bowden shadowboxed with Muhammad Ali from his bed at Children’s Hospital, The Rainbow Connection has dedicated its efforts to putting smiles on the faces of these brave children and supporting their families.
Just as special as the first wish, and all of the thousand of wishes that have been granted over the past 36 years, 4-year-old Abigail became The Rainbow Connection’s 3000th wish in October of 2015.
Abigail has been battling cancer since 2012. She loves ballet dancing, playing with baby dolls and playing with her 18-month-old brother Joshua. Abigail’s wish is to meet all of the Disney princesses at Disney World, will come true when her doctor gives the approval for travel, hopefully later this year.
“The children we meet are enduring long and painful medical treatments. We bring hope, laughter and something to look forward to – right now, providing a different kind of medicine – the priceless gift of hope and joy” explains Executive Director Mary Grace McCarter.
Although there is no waiting list at The Rainbow Connection, children often have to wait until they have clearance from their physicians. The Rainbow Connection provides surprise packages in the mail, tickets to sporting and entertainment events and a listening ear while the wish child waits for medical treatments to end. From shopping sprees and home theatres to meeting celebrities or the president, The Rainbow Connection works with to ensure that each and every child has the dream of all dreams- a magical once in a lifetime dream that will create memories to last a lifetime.
In addition to making dreams come true the Special Response Program assists families with financial difficulties brought on by expenses of having a child with a catastrophic illness, such as rent, utilities, and even funeral expenses. The Wish Enhancement Program provides fun times for these children and their families through summer picnics, a Holiday Party, and tickets to attend area theatres, concerts and sporting events and The Rainbow Connection Scholarship Program offers $1,000 scholarships each year for wish children going on to college.
What began as a small organization to honor the memory of friends has become a state-wide, nationally recognized charity, bringing smiles to thousands. The Rainbow Connection is fully funded by the donations and support of individuals and corporations dedicated to helping make dreams come true Michigan children with life threatening illnesses.
The Rainbow Connection will host its Dream Makers’ Ball on April 30 at The Townsend Hotel. The gala is the perfect opportunity to enjoy dinner, entertainment and live auction while finding out more about The Rainbow Connection. For ticket information, visit www.rainbowconnection.org.
The Rainbow Connection is located at 621 West University Drive in Rochester, MI. For more information on The Rainbow Connection, including its annual Dream Makers Ball, Walk for Kids or Celebration of Dreams events, visit www.rainbowconnection.org or call 248-601-7494.
Rochester Rotary Charities announces $5,000 donation to The Rainbow Connection
Continuing support of local charities will help make dreams come true for Michigan children with life threatening illnesses
Rochester-Rochester Hills, MI
By SUSAN DAVIS (Open Post) – January 28, 2016 10:51 am ET
Rochester Rotary, a member club of Rotary International, a worldwide organization of business and professional leaders that provides humanitarian service and encourages high ethical standards in all vocations, is pleased to announce its continuing support of local charities through a $5,000 donation to Rochester-based The Rainbow Connection. The mission of The Rainbow Connection is to help make dreams come true for Michigan children with life threatening illnesses.
Rochester Rotary Charities President Cary Riggs made the donation at the weekly Tuesday Rotary lunch meeting on Jan. 26. to Mary Grace McCarter, executive director at The Rainbow Connection and also a member of Rochester Rotary. McCarter accepted the check with Wish Child Jillian and Jillian’s mom Phyllis in attendance. Jillian is nine years old and lives in Rochester. Diagnosed with cancer in April of 2014, she bravely endured many months of painful medical treatments while battling her illness. Jillian “rang the bell” at Children’s Hospital in September 2015, signifying she is in remission.
“Now that Jillian’s doctor has given the thumbs up on her health, all of us at The Rainbow Connection are on high alert to make Jillian’s dream to meet her all-time favorite pop musical artist Katy Perry come true,” McCarter said. “The continuing support of Rochester Rotary Charities helps us to make wishes for children like Jillian and thousands of others throughout Michigan become reality and we are grateful for their generosity.”
Riggs added that The Rainbow Connection is highly deserving of Rotary support.
“Charity Navigator, the largest independent charity evaluator, has awarded The Rainbow Connection its highest four star rating award for four consecutive years,” Riggs said. “Rochester Rotary Charities is privileged to be able to support an organization that not only meets the needs of ill children and their families, but is also an excellent steward of the charitable monies they receive.”
About The Rainbow Connection
From a magical trip to Disney World to meeting the President of the United States at The White House, Rochester-based The Rainbow Connection has fulfilled the dreams of thousands of Michigan children diagnosed with life threatening illnesses. The Rainbow Connection has never turned a child away and depends on the generosity of the Michigan community to make dreams come true for these brave children. The Rainbow Connection also addresses the special needs of its wish families. The Special Response Program assists families with financial difficulties such as rent, utilities and even funeral expenses brought on by having a child with a catastrophic illness. The Wish Enhancement Program provides fun times for children and their families through summer picnics, a holiday party and tickets to attend area theater, concert and sporting events. The Rainbow Connection Scholarship Program offers $1,000 scholarships each year for Wish Children going on to college. Learn more here.
About Rochester Rotary
Celebrating 61 years as a club in 2015, Rochester Rotary is one of 34,000 member clubs of Rotary International, which has more than 1.2 million members and raises and disburses funds for charitable, educational and scientific purposes. Monies are raised through social events and service projects organized by the club, ‘fines’ collected at Rochester Rotary meetings and gifts offered to the club through members and supporters.
The club welcomes new members who live or work in Rochester, Rochester Hills or Oakland Township. For membership information, contact Jeff Whitbey atJeff@whitbey.net. Rochester Rotary meets each Tuesday at noon at the River Crest Banquet Hall on Avon Road and Livernois in Rochester Hills. Like us on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/RochesterRotaryMI and learn more at http://www.rochesterrotaryclub.org/.
About Rotary International
Rotary’s main objective is service — in the community, in the workplace, and around the globe. The 1.2 million Rotarians who hail from Rotary clubs in nearly every country in the world share a dedication to the ideal of Service Above Self. Rotary clubs are open to people of all cultures and ethnicities and are not affiliated with any political or religious organizations. Learn more athttps://www.rotary.org/en.
Photo 1: Mary Grace McCarter with Rochester Rotary Charities President Cary Riggs and Rochester Rotary President Alan McLellan. Photo credit: Tom Neveau
Dream Maker’s Ball benefits The Rainbow Connection on April 18 at 6 p.m. at the Townsend Hotel.
The Rainbow Connection invites the community to join Founder L. Brooks Patterson, Mark Crawford and D’Ann Columbo on April 18 at The Townsend Hotel for The Dream Maker’s Ball. The first annual black tie gala will benefit the charity’s mission to make dreams come true for brave Michigan children with life threatening illnesses.
Tessa from Royal Oak was just five years old when her parents received the devastating news that their little girl has Neuroblastoma. Now seven years old, Tessa has been through so much but she’s dressing up and arriving in high style as the Dream Maker’s Ball Wish Ambassador and Co-Host at The Rainbow Connection’s upcoming charity ball.
“This event is destined to be a premier charity event in Metro Detroit and we are excited to have so many people a part of the inaugural event,” said Rainbow Connection Executive Director Mary Grace McCarter.
Jasen Magic, renowned magician is donating his time and talent to the evening. He explained, “The Rainbow Connection has planned a lot of surprises for the evening’s guests. I am more than pleased to be a part of making the evening really special for all the guests and for Tessa too”.
“It’s all about the magic,” said McCarter. “It’s an evening of sharing the magic of making dreams come true for these amazing Michigan children diagnosed with life threatening illnesses.”
The Dream Maker’s Ball begins at 6p.m. with complimentary premium cocktails, hors oeuvres and magical surprises, followed by dinner, a spectacular live auction and dancing to the music of top rated, “Trilogy.”
Highlights of the live auction include a private catered dinner party for ten at 2015 Homearama Best in Show property, a framed Detroit Red Wings jersey autographed by the entire team and dinner for four with Oakland County Executive, L. Brooks Patterson.
Tickets for the Dream Maker’s Ball are $250 and table sponsorships are still available. To learn more about The Rainbow Connection and make reservation for the Dream Makers Ball, visit www.rainbowconnection.org or call 248-601-9474.
Awarded four stars, the highest rating given by Charity Navigator, The Rainbow Connection also provides emergency support services, information and referral, tickets to area sporting and entertainment events, holiday parties and picnics for its wish families.
Rochester and Stoney Creek High Schools Raise More than $24,000 for Rainbow Connection in Honor of Fellow Student
(ROCHESTER–MAY 18, 2015) —Rochester and Stoney Creek High Schools joined forces during the 2015 Charity Week, in memory of their classmate Gage Garmo, to raise more than $24,000 for The Rainbow Connection, the charity that fulfilled Gage’s wish to meet rapper Eminem.
These same students had waged a social media campaign that escalated and drew international attention when 17-year-old Gage, who had been battling cancer, was told he had just days to live.
Kelley Cusmano, Faculty Advisor to the student council at Rochester High School said “donating to make dreams come true for other kids turns grief into action. Gage was admired for his courage and great spirit through his four-year ordeal. Gage was so upbeat and selfless….this is just the next right thing to do.”
Skylar Garrett, charity week chair and a senior at Stoney Creek High School explained “We want to honor Gage Garmo and partnered with Rochester High School to make dreams come true for other kids like Gage.”
Representatives from both schools were at a check presentation at Rainbow Connection on May 13.
“These students provide a role model for us all in turning the sadness of losing their friend into a dream come true for other Michigan children suffering with life threatening illnesses. I am not surprised; these students were driven to succeed! Still, I am so proud of what they have accomplished and we are so grateful for their donation. It will have a great and immediate positive impact for the Michigan children and families we serve” said Executive Director Mary Grace McCarter.
The Rainbow Connection, the Michigan charity making dreams come true for Michigan children stricken with life threatening also provides support services to the family. From a magical trip to Disney World to biking down volcanoes in Hawaii to meeting the President of the United States, The Rainbow Connection has made dreams come true for over 2800 children and anticipates making dreams come true for more than 150 children in 2015.
Rochester, Mich. – The Rainbow Connection (TRC) today announced that they have been awarded the coveted 4-star “Exceptional” rating from Charity Navigator, America’s leading independent charity evaluator. The designation means that TRC exceeds industry standards for financial health, accountability and transparency, and outperforms most charities in its cause.
“Receiving the highest rating available from one of the nation’s leading independent charity evaluators is a testament to the professionalism and commitment of our staff to our donors,” said TRC’s executive director, Mary Grace McCarter. “We work hard to maximize every donation we receive towards making dreams come true for Michigan children facing life-threatening illnesses and providing emergency support for their families.”
Since its inception in 1985, TRC has served over 2,500 critically-ill children and their families across Michigan. Unlike many other wish-granting organizations, TRC stays with a child and their family beyond fulfillment of the child’s wish, providing additional “wish extension” opportunities and critical assistance to the families facing unexpected hardships or financial difficulties brought on by the catastrophic illness of their child.
“The solitude experienced by a child or a family member can be crushing at times during treatment for a life-threatening illness,” explained McCarter. “We are there for the family before and after the wish. We remain connected with the child and family providing support and a listening ear. That kind of support mandates sound fiscal responsibility to ensure that every dollar received from our donor community is used to its fullest potential for the wish child and family. This Charity Navigator ranking serves to further ensure our donors that their money is indeed well spent.”
About The Rainbow Connection
Founded in 1985 by Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson in memory of his best friend and two children who died in a plane crash, The Rainbow Connection makes dreams come true for Michigan children with life threatening illnesses and provides emergency support to the family. From something as simple as a new computer to meeting the President of the United States at the White House, to the most requested wish of all, a trip to Disney World, The Rainbow Connection has made dreams come true for over 2,500 children. To learn more about The Rainbow Connection or to donate to make dreams come true for kids across Michigan, go to rainbowconnection.org or call 248-601-9474.