About the same time Karl Thimm was launching Appliance Sales Plus, his family-owned home appliance business in Somers, the Make-a-Wish Foundation was also just getting off the ground.
Now over 40 years later, the successful retailer sits on the board of the charity’s local chapter and is committed to spreading awareness of the organization’s mission to grant the wish of every child diagnosed with a critical illness.
“I want to enlighten the community and let them know how we grant wishes to kids and fulfill their dreams,” Thimm said.
Make-a-Wish began in 1980 when a seven year-old boy named Christopher James, who was battling leukemia, expressed his wish to be an Arizona State Trooper for a day. Friends made it possible for James to wear the uniform, sit in a helicopter and realize his boyhood dream. The gesture eventually grew into the foundation that now has 60 chapters in the United States with 55 international affiliates—and has granted over 330,000 wishes to children.
Thomas J. Conklin, who is the president of the Hudson Valley chapter of Make-a-Wish, said that the funding of the children’s wishes comes from the generosity of individuals, companies and private organizations; they do not take any government money.
“We look for individual donations and business people who want to give back to the community, like Karl Thimm and Appliance Sales Plus,” Conklin said, adding that the Somers Lions Club has also been a tremendous supporter of the organization.
In the Hudson Valley alone, 2,900 wishes have been granted and for Thimm, a veteran of the United States Air Force and current resident of Mahopac, being able to help kids in such difficult situations has touched him in a special way. “Make-a-Wish takes a moment in the life of a child and gives them a happy memory that lasts—when you see them, the children that have been helped over the years—you just have to be involved,” he said.
Conklin noted that supporters range from local businesses like Appliance Sales Plus all the way to the biggest names in sports and entertainment.
It was revealed after the tragic loss of Kobe Bryant, that the NBA legend had granted over 200 wishes to children. Not only was Bryant in the top-10 list of celebrities who have participated with Make-a-Wish, but he was also someone who insisted on letting the child meet him one-on-one, to make a personal connection. “The stories are coming out about how great a wish-granter [Bryant] was, and it just reinforces Make-a-Wish with the community,” Conklin said.
Various types of wishes are granted for the children, beyond meeting their heroes, he added. A “room makeover,” for example, is a popular request—for a kid who is used to spending a lot of time in a hospital or is living with challenging circumstances, a new bedroom can represent a healing safe-haven. “We have electricians who are skilled people and donate their time and expertise to the makeover,” he said.
The benefits are not only felt by the child with a wish, but have ripple effects for the family as well. Thimm said he has seen the stress levels ease for the kids and families alike, and their well-being improved when a wish has been granted.
“It emotionally helps the children and the emotion becomes physical because their mind feels better and their body will feel better, he said. “And hopefully that will help them in a cure.”