HURON, S.D. — During South Dakota Farmers Union Day at the South Dakota State Fair, the state’s largest agriculture organization partnered with Make-A-Wish South Dakota & Montana to adopt a wish for a South Dakota child living with a critical illness.
“Make-A-Wish has a special place in many hearts because it supports kids who are experiencing a rough time, dealing with something at their age they should not have to deal with – a life-threatening disease,” said Karla Hofhenke, Executive Director of South Dakota Farmers Union. “Supporting rural youth and families is a focus of our organization. We see sponsoring a wish as a way to make a positive impact in the life of South Dakota youth.”
Hofhenke has a personal understanding of the power a wish can have. “When my now adult daughter, Tanya, was battling leukemia as a high school student, the doctors were not giving her much hope. Make-A-Wish had a lot to do with helping her through her illness.”
Shanda Spilde can relate. Her third-grade son, Koen is a rural South Dakota farm kid who lives with a chronic respiratory disorder and adrenal insufficiency. These life-threatening conditions, mean Koen spends a lot of time at appointments, trending labs and tests, and hospitalized.
“When Koen’s wish was granted, it gave him something positive to look forward to. This is important because many of our days revolve around doctor and pharmacy calls, appointments, lab draws, injections, unexpected ER visits and hospitalizations,” Shanda said. “When you hear about kids getting wishes, it is not just that they get a Wish – Make-A-Wish goes above and beyond to make every step of the process special.”
Koen’s Wish was granted on World Wish Day April 29, 2021. His wish was to transform the waiting room at Avera Specialty Pediatrics with the goal to teach other kids about farm life through an entire experience. The waiting room is now farm themed with an interactive farm board that shows videos from his farm/ranch.
“I was really happy when my wish was granted because it was a way to help other kids have fun when they are waiting. Most of the time I’m that kid nervous about appointments and pokes, and I don’t want other kids to feel the way I did in the waiting room,” Koen shared. “Waiting rooms are boring. There is a TV that you cannot change the channel on and millions of chairs. And you have to sit there for what seems like hours.”
Koen got to help design the play area, which features his favorite red tractor, the family dog, Toby and farm cat, Snickers. He also helped design a coloring/activity book kids can take back to the exam room with them. And each child receives a toy tractor at the conclusion of their appointment.
“Every planning meeting, Make-A-Wish made him feel like a celebrity. And those design meetings gave him something positive to look forward to,” Shanda explained.
“Together, we create life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses.” Make-A-Wish Mission
Farmers Union is adopting a wish through donations they collect during the 2022 Farmer’s Share Lunch at the State Fair. The Farmer’s Share Lunch is a $13 lunch provided to fairgoers for only 35 cents – the price farmers and ranchers receive for the ingredients used in the meal.
“It’s a way to educate consumers on the profits South Dakota farm and ranch families actually earn from the crops and livestock they raise and care for compared to the prices we all pay for food at the grocery store,” Hofhenke explains.
More than 1,000 fairgoers enjoyed the 2022 Farmer’s Share Lunch.
“We could not do what we do without wish partners like Farmers Union,” said Sue Salter, President and CEO of Make-A-Wish South Dakota and Montana. “We are completely funded by individuals, families, corporations and organizations who donate to our mission.”
Make-A-Wish serves children, like Koen, in communities across South Dakota and Montana. To learn more about how you can support the mission of Make-A-Wish, visit https://wish.org/sdmt.