Friday, April 12, 2024

Trailblazing Couple Wants to Make Wishes Come True

Jamie and Jeff Marklin during the 2023 Trailblazer Challenge. (Photo: Jamie Marklin)

JAMES CITY COUNTY — For the third year in a row, James City County residents Jeff and Jamie Marklin will tackle a one-day, 18-mile hike through Shenandoah National Park in support of the Make-A-Wish Foundation (MAW) Greater Virginia Chapter.

The Trailblaze Challenge, which takes place in mid-April, is meant to provide awareness and assist in raising funds to grant life-changing wishes for children diagnosed with a critical illness.

Make-A-Wish is a federated nonprofit model, each chapter is a separate local not-for-profit entity that develops the resources to grant the wish of every eligible child. So, funds raised locally are used to support local kids.

Jeff Marklin joined the MAW Greater Virginia Chapter in 2021.

“It is an amazing organization that literally makes dreams come true for children across the country, including in our area,” he said. “I joined the Board because I have a strong personal connection to MAW as my cousin was a wish recipient many years ago when she was battling a terminal illness. Her experiences with her wish are precious memories for our family.”

Trailblaze Challenge participants start before the sun. (Photo: Jamie Marklin)

On average, MAW Greater Virginia grants one to two wishes per year in the Historic Triangle. Lambert says the typical cost to grant one wish is $10,000.

“We have many more kids in our pipeline, waiting for wishes than usual,” stated Shei Lambert, Chapter President, “Currently, 262 children in our territory are waiting for a wish right now. Of those, there are five currently in the [Historic Triangle]. This is many more than we typically have waiting in one year.”

“This is our third year doing the Trailblazer Challenge. It’s important to Jamie and me for a number of reasons, first and foremost of which is that it raises awareness and funds to grant more wishes. As a nonprofit, we’re critically dependent on individual and corporate donations to grant wishes for our long pipeline of wish kids,” said Marklin.

Jeff and Jamie Marklin during the Trailblazer Challenge. (Photo: Jamie Marklin)

“While you don’t need to be an Olympian to complete the challenge…it’s no joke! The 18-mile hike takes the better part of a day to complete, and your legs are burning afterwards!” explains Marklin, “It’s also well scheduled for when our seasons are turning in Virginia. At the elevation we hike in, you get the benefit of seeing the beautiful vistas and flora Virginia has to offer, without being buried in pollen or humidity!”

This year, 34 participants will be hiking and donations are still being accepted.

“Fun, exciting challenges like Trailblaze are a cool way to drum up interest. We’ve made wishes come true for more than 5 kids each year from our efforts — and this year we hope to double that!” Marklin continued, “On top of that, Trailblaze combines a great cause with some of our hobbies: being active, being outside, and being with awesome people.”

If community members are looking for other ways to help out MAW Greater Virginia, Lambert says the organization is in need of Wish Granter Volunteers.

“These are the volunteers who actually meet eligible Wish kids and their families, interview kids to find out ideas they have for potential wishes. Then, they really liaise with the family and child through the course of time it takes us to grant a wish, which averages about a year. These volunteers are the representees of the mission in our local communities,” Lambert stated. “It really is one of the most rewarding volunteer positions!”

“A wish come true helps children feel stronger, more energetic, more willing and able to battle their critical illnesses. For many, the wish marks a turning point in the fight against their illnesses,” states the MAW webpage, “Doctors, nurses and other health professionals say the wish experience works in concert with medicine to make their patients feel better emotionally and even physically. That is why wishes matters.”

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