May 01, 2017

Making Wishes Come True

By Lori Draz and Daniela Olt

Welcome to Teen Scene. Each month, our young authors write, in their own voice, stories that will educate and inform fellow students and parents on a range of topics. If you are a teen who would like to write your story, contact The Journal. We’ll help you polish it up, so don’t worry – let’s just get to sharing.

This month’s author is Daniela Olt, a 14-year-old freshman at Colts Neck High School. This compassionate and industrious young lady started to fuel her passion for helping others at the tender age of seven. Daniela became an angel of giving to children in strife, knowing that the faith and courage needed to overcome difficult times comes in many ways…sometimes as simply as a smile. Of course, Daniela’s mom Sheila was right there at her side, and now Daniela is heading her own 501c3 non-profit organization, which is helping children far and wide feel the loving warmth of a true giving heart. This May, as we remember the unconditional support of our moms, we ask you to remember with kindness the children who are not so lucky. Here is Daniela’s story:

My mom has always taught me to give with my heart and I try to do that every day. All you need is a simple smile to make someone’s day or to help them feel safe. This is exactly what my goal was when I started Daniela’s Wish.

When I was seven, I saw the devastation of the earthquake that hit Haiti. I knew in my heart I had to do something to help those children feel safe and bring some smiles to their faces. So with the help of local supporters, I collected over 1,000 boxes of cookies and 300 new stuffed animals, which I gave to a local Haitian charity that could deliver the items to the children in Haiti.

Then Superstorm Sandy hit, so I collected 3,000 books, toys, gift cards, and other items that went to schools, libraries, and displaced families all over New Jersey.

Now, five years later, I grant wishes to ill children or children that suffer tragedy. I could not do this without the full support of and donations from many local business owners, moms, professionals, and individuals, and of course, my mom, who still reminds to give with my heart.

Daniela’s Wish is 100% volunteer, and 100% of every donation goes to granting wishes. My sole purpose is to make dreams come true by granting these wishes. I have a board of nine members from our local community that dedicate countless hours to helping this foundation create these memories and smiles. I have developed partnerships with Jersey Shore, Monmouth Medical, and CentraState hospitals, and I visit each three times a year to deliver about 200 new toys. I go, room by room, to each pediatric patient with a stack of new toys. The looks on the kids’ and parents’ faces are so rewarding. It feels so wonderful to go to bed at night knowing we made a difference in the life of a child and their family.

When a child has not smiled in months and we grant them a wish and they finally smile, the tears roll down the parents’ faces. I think about how the efforts of my board and the donations from the community and local businesses make those smiles, those happy tears, and the feeling of such goodness happen.

I spend time every day thinking of how I can give back to others, and how I can help other kids overcome, stress, and fear during difficult times. I work very hard at my charity every day, including some nights, holidays, and weekends, and I still play softball, and keep my grades up.

My mom continues to teach me the joy of giving with all your heart every day. Sometimes my heart smiles and sometimes it is very sad as some of the many friends I have made and helped have earned their angel wings way too early in life. But I keep these kids’ lessons of hope, strength, and courage in my heart every day. I am committed to my mission of granting wishes and bringing more smiles to many children and their families. I will always pay it forward with all my heart, knowing in the end that I made a difference.

If you know a child between the ages of 3-18 that needs a wish granted, please contact me through www.danielaswish.org and please like and share my Facebook at Daniela’s Wish.

Anybody can make a difference. You don’t have to have a foundation. You can listen to someone, help someone, or give your time to someone. Little gestures go a long way, and each of us has the gift of being able to make someone smile. Harriet Tubman once said “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” Another great quote I feel should be expressed every day is by Helen Keller: “Alone we can do so little, but together we can do so much.” Let’s grant wishes together!