SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) When a neighbor said she wanted to help chronically ill children who were stuck in the hospital, this week’s Jefferson Award winner jumped in to help. She’s not a doctor or nurse, but she found a way to use her own expertise to make a difference.
Ten-year-old Jake Bellah has cancer, but on one recent day, he also had a smile. From his hospital bed, he greeted a small group of singing women bearing gift bags.
“Come to me, my pretties!” he joked. “I got these power function Legos, which means I can now build some cool Lego technique stuff,” he explained later.
The bounty came from the non-profit Little Wishes.
One of the singing women, Lori Johanson, describes herself as “the boring money person.” She’s Little Wishes’ Chief Financial Officer, working behind the scenes to bring in the money and pay the bills. She got involved 15 years ago when her neighbor said she had an idea.
“So since my background was in finance I said, ‘I am happy to help,’ and got us incorporated as a 501c3 non-profit organization and then I have just continued on handling the finance and accounting for Little Wishes since we started!” Johanson remembered.
Little Wishes is an all-volunteer group that grants wishes to chronically ill children in 13 hospitals in eight states. They’re on track to grant their 10,000th wish. There are financial limits to the wishes, but because children can battle an illness for years, one child may have multiple wishes granted over time.
Three-year-old Dylan made a wish for a princess dress and a bubble machine.
“It’s really nice to be able to have her get distracted from the treatment that she is getting,” said Dylan’s father, Miles Cooper. “It’s been a real treat to have this.”
Johanson herself feels blessed to have four healthy children and sees Little Wishes as a way to give back.
“It’s just a way that I know I can do something even if it is behind the scenes, but that I can help make people’s lives better,” she said.
So for helping improve the lives of chronically ill children, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Lori Johanson.