Disney in love: Concert to benefit Make-A-Wish Foundation

Zoe Wagner hugs Mickey Mouse during her Make-A-Wish trip to Disney World.

For several years, Zane Wagner, of Williamsport, has directed concerts to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation. This year, his sister, Zoe, 14, who has performed in the concerts since she was 9, has taken the reins as director since her brother no longer lives in Lycoming County. Zoe wanted to make sure that her family’s passion for supporting the Make-A-Wish Foundation continued, which sparked her directing debut.

This year’s concert, which will feature Disney love songs for Valentine’s Day, will be held at 7 p.m. Friday at Williamsport Area Middle School. Doors open at 6:15 p.m. for a meet and greet with Disney “couples” life Mickey and Minnie Mouse. The concert is free to attend, but donations will be accepted at the door, with all proceeds benefiting Make-A-Wish.

The Wagner family was in the middle of their sixth benefit concert in 2015 when Zoe was diagnosed with stage two Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. A family who has been raising money for sick children for years, now had their own diagnosis. Never did they dream that they ever would be on the receiving end of the organization they had been passionate about helping for so long.

“We learned first hand what this organization can do for children with life threatening illnesses,” said Christine Wagner, Zoe’s mother. “We were very passionate for the Make-A-Wish Foundation pre-cancer, you can only imagine how passionate we are today.”

Zoe said she began planning for this year’s concert last summer, with help from her mother, brother and Make-A-Wish.

“My mom has been so helpful with cutting raffle tickets, securing sponsorships, advertising and everything in between,” Zoe said. “I have also received much help from my Make-A-Wish advisor, who has aided me through the process of the logistics of a benefit.”

During the concert, Zoe and 11 other high school students will perform Disney love songs, inspired by the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday. There also will be a raffle for items such as gift cards, gift baskets, jewelry and more.

Christine said her title for the night of the concert, as given by her children, is front of house manager. “That means I greet audience members and make sure the Disney character meet and greet, as well as the raffle tickets sales and other items, run smoothly,” she said.

“I hope the audience enjoys the show and that she (Zoe) will have some sense of success so that she will continue to carry on the tradition of directing annual benefits,” she added.

Zoe said her hopes for the concert is, “To raise as much money as we can and bring awareness of the great things the Make-A-Wish Foundation does. I hope that it will be well attended and that the cast can walk away feeling rewarded to help such an amazing cause.”

Zoe’s favorite part about the whole process of putting on the concert is the night of the show. “The feeling that you get knowing you are doing something you love for something/someone is truly amazing,” she said.

In December 2015, Zoe’s wish was granted by Make-A-Wish and she went to Disney World with her mom and two brothers. She has been cancer free for 1 1/2 years.

“Before my diagnosis, I thought this foundation was amazing but I know it now,” Zoe said. “After seeing what all they do for their wish kids and being on the other end of things, it just makes me want to work that much harder to give back even part of what this foundation has given me.”

For more information about the Make-A-Wish Foundation, visit wish.org.