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In 2006 Danielle Gletow and her husband became foster parents. Wanting to help children who had been abused and neglected, the Gletows knew they could offer a good home to children.
“We felt this was an unmet need,” Gletow said. “We really wanted to give a child a good home.”
Just two weeks after welcoming a 3-day-old girl into their home (who would eventually become their daughter), the Gletows found out they were also pregnant. Balancing two young children was a challenge and the couple decided to concentrate on raising their young family. But the family wanted to continue being involved in foster care. With so much need, Gletow knew she needed to find a way to continue helping.
“I could see there were a lot of things kids were going without,” Gletow said. “There was this real hole in the system. I was trying to figure out what I could do to open the door for children.”
In 2008, Gletow launched One Simple Wish to help fill the void for kids in foster care. The organization was formed with the idea that it would grant wishes to children in care and brighten their life experience just a little.
One Simple Wish has grown and now includes two programs. The Ohana Project provides supplies to children as they enter foster care. Shampoo, conditioner, baby items and personal care kits provide children with a little comfort in their early days of foster care. The Ultimate Wish Program grants the wishes of children in foster care. To create a way for wishes to be granted for children, caseworkers reach out to Gletow to have the child on their caseload included in the program as Community Partners. Then, One Simple Wish shares the child’s wish on the website and to supporters to help grant each wish.
“We’ve granted 99 percent of every wish that’s ever been made,” Gletow said.
The program started out small in New Jersey, but news about the program quickly spread. When One Simple Wish was featured on NBC Nightly News during the 2012 holiday season, the organization just exploded. Thousands of people reached out to One Simple Wish to make donations to help children in foster care. Donations soared from $175,000 a year to $780,000 the next year.
“It really just propelled us in a whole new direction,” Gletow said. “We went from serving around 100 kids to 6,000 kids in a year.”
This year, One Simple Wish has granted more than 4,000 wishes from new Barbie dolls and dance lessons to new shoes and bikes. For Gletow, granting wishes has become a way she can help children feel a little less lonely and lost while in the foster care system.
“My children have everything they need,” Gletow said. “It’s heartbreaking when I see children deal with this difficult and heartbreaking system.”
For the last several years, Gletow has also taken One Simple Wish on the road every summer on its Ultimate Wish Tour. Traveling from New Jersey to California last year, Gletow was able to grant more wishes and spread the word about the organization even further. This year Gletow is taking a hiatus from the road tour to concentrate on the organization’s growth.
“It’s gotten a little too expensive and taken us away from the work too long,” Gletow said. “It’s important to us to continue to adapt our program to meet the needs of the children.”
For now, Gletow is concentrating on other areas of expansion. One Simple Wish launched a new website in May to make wish granting easier. The new site also allows the wish granter to post messages on the wish page to share thoughts with the child whose wish is being granted.
The organization is also rolling out a new program for kids aging out of foster care, called Milly’s Place. One Simple Wish received the donation of a two bedroom, two bath row house where two former foster youth will be able to live rent free and work for One Simple Wish through the new program.
“This property was gifted to us by Wells Fargo,” Gletow said. “It was a great fit for our scope. It fits nicely with the work we’re already doing and we can take it to the next level.”
Already with one former foster youth employed with One Simple Wish, Milly’s Place will provide a new opportunity for youth. Gletow said she hopes that the program will be something that One Simple Wish can grow over time.
In addition to helping foster children, One Simple Wish provides support to vulnerable youth and kinship caregivers.
“We’re not limited to just foster children,” Gletow said. “There are other ways we support others, not just children.”
Reaching out to more and more people, Gletow helps to impact all who are touched by the child welfare system. She continues to spread the word about the program to get and give more wishes and help more people.
“The ultimate goal for us is that every child that needs us knows we’re a resource,” Gletow said. “We have to just keep sharing our story.”
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