West Bloomfield residents help grant wishes for children facing critical illnesses

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published September 10, 2021

 Earlier this summer, West Bloomfield residents Scott and Dorothy Cornell took to their bikes to help benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Earlier this summer, West Bloomfield residents Scott and Dorothy Cornell took to their bikes to help benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Photo provided by Scott Cornell

 West Bloomfield resident Mark Kuhn, right, is pictured with his nephew, Jordan Weiss, in a Wish-A-Mile bike ride to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

West Bloomfield resident Mark Kuhn, right, is pictured with his nephew, Jordan Weiss, in a Wish-A-Mile bike ride to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Photo provided by Scott Cornell

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WEST BLOOMFIELD — Like others before him, when West Bloomfield resident Mark Kuhn agreed to take part in a charity bike ride that benefits Make-A-Wish Michigan, he didn’t do so with the intent of making a long-term commitment.

Kuhn had learned of a Make-A-Wish event called Wish-A-Mile, which helps the nonprofit raise money in order to grant wishes for children with critical illnesses, and he decided to give it a shot.

Wish-A-Mile is a three-day bicycle tour, and Kuhn said he “thought it would be a great achievement to ride 300 miles in three days.”

The event has turned into much more than a one-and-done for Kuhn, as he recently participated in his 17th Wish-A-Mile.

He rides for Team Alex, which started in 1999 in memory of Alex Graham, a “wish kid” who died from a childhood bone cancer known as osteogenic sarcoma.

The experience from his first ride in 2005 has helped Kuhn keep coming back for more.

“You realize that you’re doing something good in the world, and a small part of something much bigger,” he said. “That keeps people coming back. It’s kept me coming back for 17 years. … It’s a great cause.”

Earlier this summer, Kuhn was a part of Michigan’s 34th annual WAM event.

Due to COVID-19, like last year, the event was held virtually.

Kuhn logged his miles in various locations, including Up North, in Dexter and in Northville.

West Bloomfield resident Scott Cornell was also one of the participants. He said he started in 2011, and his wife, Dorothy, started in 2014.

When he first started, Cornell said, he had “no idea” it would become such a big part of his life.

“It’s a way of life for us,” he said. “I’m wearing a Make-A-Wish shirt right now. … It’s become a passion.”

Dorothy Cornell shared a similar sentiment.

“We’re very grateful that we’re involved with Make-A-Wish,” she said. “The whole organization became a big part of our lives. … We’re friends with staff, other volunteers, and we know several kids that have had their wishes granted.”

Scott and Dorothy ride for David’s Heroes, which was established in 1992 and is named for David Doty, who Scott said died from leukemia.

Scott discussed what David’s wish was.

“He wanted to do an old western stagecoach kind of thing, camp outside and ride horses,” he said. “It meant the world to David, his father and his uncle.”

Prior to the pandemic, wish kids who were assigned to particular teams would provide riders with a medal after completing their respective tours.

Scott recalled the first year he was a part of that process and learning of a wish that had been granted for a child.

“My first ‘wish child,’ her name was Alexa,” he said. “She gave me that medal and smiled. … She went to Disney to meet all the princesses, and the smile on her face and the joy in her heart. … I thought, ‘You know what, I’m (going to) keep doing this until I can’t do it anymore.’”

Scott said, “that’s when it all came to fruition.”

“It’s like, ‘I get it now, and this is a worthy cause,’” he said.

Wishes granted for children have also impacted Dorothy.

“Seeing their response, their excitement and just how happy they are after their wish, that’s what keeps us going,” she said.

Kuhn has also witnessed what a wish granted can do for a youngster.

“It’s been gratifying to see firsthand the benefit that granting a wish does for a particular child,” he said. “But what’s touched me even more is the feeling of appreciation you get from the rest of the families — their siblings and parents. They’re so thankful for this little bit that we do, with riding our bikes.”

Aside from Kuhn’s own part in the process, he has also tried to share the benefits of contributing to Make-A-Wish with others.

“I try to, when I talk to friends and solicit contributions for the organization, I try to make them understand that they’re becoming a part of something bigger than just writing the check,” he said. “They’re there for a little piece of time. They’re kind of transforming the experience of this family, the wish kid, parents and siblings. And that’s the kind of message I’m trying to convey to people: You can really make the difference.”

From Kuhn’s perspective, having a wish granted “brings some happiness” into the life of a wish kid.

Going to Disney, getting a play area for a yard and getting a computer or bicycle are examples he cited of wishes granted for children.

“What they get is, not only a sense of being normal for a while, but also this feeling of, people are going out of their way to do something special for them that doesn’t involve pain and discomfort in the hospital visits,” Kuhn said. “To watch some of these videos where the kids talk about their experiences on the Make-A-Wish website, it gives you a sense of the impact that it has on their lives.”

For more information, visit michigan.wish.org or call (800) 622-9474.

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