Jennifer Savory will always remember what it means when a wish comes true for a child who is fighting a life-threatening illness.
Two years ago at the Sunrise Valley Elementary School 5-Kilometer Run and Walk-a-thon, 11-year-old Matt Forkas of Vienna told participants how he was featured in the movie, "Spiderman 2," during his battle with leukemia — a wish realized thanks to the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Forkas, now 13, is in remission and continues to help raise money for the organization.
“That year was really poignant and left an impression on the kids,” said Savory, a counselor at Sunrise Valley who originally helped start the annual event to show students that they have the power to make a difference.
THE SCHOOL LAUNCHED the event to benefit Make-a-Wish six years ago with the support of its business partner, Milestone, a nearby Reston-based real estate development company led by CEO Len Forkas.
Two years later, Forkas’ son, Matt, was diagnosed with leukemia. Forkas said that the organization he’d been helping raise money for would later make his son’s wish to be in the Spiderman movie come true.
“Make-a-Wish really gave [Matt] an incredible amount of hope,” said Forkas. Now each year, children have the opportunity to appreciate the meaning of their volunteer work, said Forkas.
This Saturday, June 10 more than 200 people, many children, will participate in the 6th Sunrise Valley Elementary School 5K. “It keeps getting bigger,” said Savory. “At Sunrise Valley, we want to instill in our students the importance of caring for others.”
IN PAST YEARS, the school has raised thousands of dollars for Make-a-Wish, usually more than $3,000 a year.
This year, the school hopes to raise $7,500, which is about the average amount of money Make-a-Wish needs to grant a wish, according to Sunrise Valley Principal Beth English. “It’s a great community-building opportunity,” said English. “We all get together to walk for a great cause.” Since 1983, the Make-a-Wish Foundation has granted wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses.
The school dedicated last year’s race to Becky Shaler, a longtime teacher at Sunrise Valley who died last October from cancer.
“This is an opportunity for kids in Reston to do good for themselves, for the school and for Make-a-Wish,” said Forkas, who added that Milestone’s partnership with Sunrise Valley has been one of the most rewarding experiences of his professional career.