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As a person with a disability, the power of community tells my life story. Throughout my journey, I have relied on social service supports and individual caregivers to get me to where I am today. I am happy to live in a community that prioritizes supporting and caring for one another.

On June 15, the Walk for Wishes will put the power of community on display. Walk for Wishes, put on by Make-A-Wish Montana, raises funds that go towards life-changing wishes for Montanan children with critical illnesses. Right now, community members are joining together to support the cause. Individuals and teams are working to secure the fundraising goal of $50,000. As of June 7, 162 people signed up and $37,343 has been raised. With less than a week to go, anything is possible.

What is a wish? It is whatever the child can imagine and wants most. It can be traveling to Disneyland or a professional sporting event. Or it can be unique, such as a Hawaiian getaway or being a superhero for a day. It is truly whatever the child wants — and the process is cool, too. Once approved for a wish, the Make-A-Wish team sets up a visit with the family. Team members work with the parents to fill out the necessary paperwork and explain the process that will take place, while other members of the team work with the child to create the wish.

Wishes typically cost $7,500 and take nine months on average to develop. Wish participants include all members living in the household and, in some instances when the child has had limited family members, friends have been allowed to be participants. You can read more details by visiting the Make-A-Wish Montana website (montana.wish.org).

How can you join? There are a number of ways you can show your support. You can sign up as individual or with a team by visiting the Walk for Wishes website. You can support me by selecting my Consumer Direct Care Network team on the Walk for Wishes website and donating to our efforts. You can even give wishes wings by donating your airfare miles by visiting the Make-A-Wish Montana website. Finally, you are welcome to witness the power of community at the Walk for Wishes on June 15 at Fort Missoula.

I leave with a few testimonials and look forward to seeing you this Friday!

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“I know I’ll always have heart problems, and that there will always be another surgery out there waiting for me, but this trip gave me so much happiness. My family and I actually got to go somewhere where there were no doctors waiting to see me or x-rays waiting. You gave me so much more than just a trip, than just a wish-come-true — you gave me a chance to 'live,' and I got to see my family happy and not worrying about me. You gave me so very, very much.” —Stormy

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"Cody was treated so special by everyone at Make-A-Wish, Disney World and Give Kids the World. It brought him a lot of enjoyment, and he loves to tell people about seeing Mickey Mouse. It was a bright spot in the middle of a ton of stress." —Cody’s family

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"Brianna has definitely grown a lot from her wish experience. She always had a positive attitude but tended towards the shy side when we have visited whether in the comfort of her home or in the treatment room at the hospital. She is now so outgoing! Her social workers can't believe how open she has become as prior to her wish she had barely said a few words to them. As soon as we got to their home, we were greeted by Brianna and her Disney Princess Photo Album/Autograph book from breakfast!" —Volunteers Michael and Valerie

Darren Larson is a disability advocate who lives in Missoula. He can be reached at oped@missoulian.com

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