MANCHESTER, NH – Faith Hazelton has come full circle. Born with a rare heart condition, she’s spent her life appreciating those who have been there for her, particularly her large family. By age 6 she’d undergone open-heart surgery and cardiac catheterization surgeries. Back then her wish was to go to Disney World, and Make-A-Wish Foundation made her wish come true. She and her five siblings and their parents were given the gift of normalcy – a chance to escape from the everyday constraints of her illness.
Now 21 and a student at Manchester Community College studying business communication, Hazelton went on to graduate from Central High School in 2017, and over the years in between, did volunteer work for Make-A-Wish.
So much so, said Donna Parker, Make-A-Wish New Hampshire VP of Development, that they ended up hiring her full time.
“When she was little her mom spoke on behalf of Make-A-Wish and as she got older she started volunteering because she wanted to give back. Faith would help out after school. She eventually was volunteering so much it was like a full-time job. So we hired her a year ago as our data specialist,” said Parker, who was on hand Monday to help Hazelton accept a $30,000 “Share the Love” check for the foundation from Subaru of America, on behalf of Prime Subaru.
That makes a grand total of $145,000 for the Manchester non-profit over the past 13 years that the two have been partners in charitable giving and receiving.
At the national level, Subaru of America will have donated $200 million after this round of giving to their four “charities of choice” – Meals on Wheels, ASPCA, the National Park Foundation and Make-A-Wish, as well as more than 1,440 hometown charities by way of local dealerships. The annual Share the Love campaign directs $300 from the sale of every car between Thanksgiving and the New Year to local charities. Customers can choose which organization their charity dollars go to.
“That speaks volumes about what Subaru New England and Subaru of America are doing to give back to the community,” said Dennis Wilson, General Manager of Prime Subaru Manchester, which is under construction and set to open in June. The presentation took place inside the future home of Prime Subaru on Gold Street, and the check hand-off event was socially-distanced and downsized from the usual splashy celebration involving several Make-A-Wish kids and their families.
But Hazelton had enough gratitude to fill the huge showroom.
“Make-A-Wish gave me so many good memories and that helped me get through my future surgeries,” Hazelton said. Born with tetralogy of fallot, a four-part heart defect, Hazelton says she was blue at birth and airlifted to Boston for open-heart surgery at just 3 days old. More treatment and surgeries have followed, and her last cath surgery was when she was 12. She now lives a normal and active life, but will eventually have to have another open-heart surgery.
“She gets it,” Parker said. “She’s been through a ‘Wish’ and she can talk to families about what to expect. When we send a family to Disney we make it as magical as possible. We tell them all they have to do is pack a suitcase, and we take care of the rest. They have had enough to worry about.”
Mayor Joyce Craig spoke briefly, recalling how Make-A-Wish had made such a difference in the life of her son’s kindergarten classmate many years ago, Jake Leonard, now a senior at UNH. Also in attendance was Executive Councilor Ted Gatsas, who said he was always impressed by the many Make-A-Wish breakfast meetings he’d attended, and the joy of seeing so many kids who had been helped by the organization.
Porter let Gatsas know that the 13th Annual Make-A-Wish breakfast is back on the calendar, following last year’s COVID interruption, for August 18 at the DoubleTree Hilton.
After the presentation, Hazelton got to show off some of her family’s photos which were part of a photo collage representing many of the local Make-A-Wish recipients over the years.
Above: Photo collages of many of the “Wish Kids” who’ve had their wishes fulfilled by Make-A-Wish Manchester.
While it may be true that all the wishes in the world can’t heal a sick child, the power of these wishes to make a sick child feel whole again is immeasurable, what it’s all about.
“I remember my oldest brother was in college in Arkansas when we went to Disney, and they flew him down there to be with us,” Hazelton said. And although she was so young, and the trip itself has become a beautiful blur, she says what she’ll never forget is being together with her family. She pulls a photo from her purse, one that didn’t make the memory board.
“That’s all of us,” she says, naming each of her family members. “What I remember most was being with my family and playing with my brothers and just being a kid, and not worrying about surgeries.”