Channel Islands High students walk for wishes

White pig statue.
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© Tiffany israel/OUHSD
A piggy bank rests on a table as students walk around the track. © Tiffany israel/OUHSD
Students walking the track during the Kids for Wish Kids walk-athon Thursday at Channel Islands High School were moved by the stories of young people with life-threatening illnesses.

The stories were posted on track hurdles to remind the students why they paid a dollar to walk around the school’s track to benefit the Make-A-Wish foundation.

“Make-A-Wish gives kids that have illnesses a chance to keep living and not give up because they’re sick,” said Ricky Estrada, 15, a freshman. His friend Andy Pacheco, 16, said he enjoys fundraising events.

“I just like to help out in the community and help out other kids,” said Pacheco, a junior.

Shannon Friedman, a business and computer teacher at the high school, said she started fundraising for Make-A-Wish at the school about three years ago.

“We’ve kept it very minimal. We just want to raise awareness,” she said.

Freidman said she started raising money for Make-A-Wish in April 2009, when about 80 students volunteered for a marathon supporting the program, raising $1,075. In May 2010, about 200 students walked in the first Kids for Wish Kids walk-athon, which raised $3,450. The goal is to raise $5,500, which is the cost of sponsoring one child’s wish, said Christine Sztukowski, who is on the board of directors for Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Tri-Counties. She was helping to sponsor the Channel Islands High School effort through her company, Independent Capital Management.

“People sponsoring a wish can choose to participate in the process through the CEO of Make-A-Wish, especially if they have a particular child they want to sponsor,” Sztukowski said. She said the No. 1 wish for children is Disney World, which she said has a great relationship with the group.

The financial terms of the wish are handled by Make-A-Wish staff, but volunteer wish granters also help with the process, getting to know the child and finding out their “true wish,” she said.

Sztukowski is also Freidman’s mother. “But that’s not why I’m doing this. We do a lot of volunteer work as a team and we go to each other to help out,” Friedman said, adding that Make-A-Wish tugs at her heartstrings. “I have a 5-year-old son, Eli, who is healthy, but I start to tell the kids in my classes, ‘How would you feel if it was your child that was sick?’ and I choke up,” Freidman said.

This year, in addition to the money collected from the more than 1,000 walkers, donation banks were placed around the school. Students could also buy T-shirts, wristbands and wall posters, with proceeds going to Make-A-Wish. Friedman said she is waiting until next week to get a fundraising total.

While the students have raised enough to sponsor one wish, Friedman said she’d really like to sponsor two wishes. She said this year’s walk-athon was so much more successful than last year’s because she was able to enroll the service of the school’s Associated Student Body, under the aegis of Brett Zielsdorf.

“This just really hits home. It really strikes a chord with our emotions. We’re local kids and we can help,” Zielsdorf said.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. With a staff of five and more than 100 volunteers, the Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Tri-Counties has granted more than 1,000 special wishes to children in Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. To refer a child to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, call 888-899-9474. Donations may be sent to Make-A-Wish, 4222 Market St., Suite D, Ventura, CA 93001. To donate your vehicle or your airline miles call 676-9974. For information visit 

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