A student’s story: The power of a wish

Zoe Wagner remembers the excitement she felt in second grade participating in the show her big brother, Zane, organized to raise money for Make-A-Wish.

“It was my first time performing in front of anyone, and I was very nervous,” Wagner recalls. “But even at a young age, I knew that what I was doing was very rewarding, and that I was helping someone live out their wish.”

Make-A-Wish is an organization that raises funds to grant children with critical illnesses a special wish.

Zane and their brother, Zack, performed in Seth Sponhouse’s show, and they were inspired to continue and grow the tradition after Seth graduated.

Zack chose to organize a production of “Into the Woods” and donated all proceeds to Make-A-Wish. Zane continued putting together benefits like Seth’s. Zane’s first year, the show raised $1,500. The last year Zane directed, the community donated over $7,000 to Make-A-Wish.

“Make-A-Wish has always been so special to me. Knowing that you can play a small part in changing someone’s story is the most fulfilling thing I could have ever done,” Zane said. Under Zoe’s direction, she and other local students have already raised $10,000 for Make-A-Wish. Zoe will direct her third show, “Boo To You” at 7 p.m. Saturday Oct. 27 at Williamsport Area Middle School.

Zoe always assumed she’d pick up where her brothers left off, but in 2015, Zoe was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

All of a sudden, it was Zoe’s wish being granted. “My wish was to go to Disney,” Zoe said. “I always loved Disney, and I really wanted to visit Give Kids The World Village. Looking back, the most important aspect of the trip was the long lasting effects it had on us. It gave me so much hope after going through something so traumatic. The trips give the families an outlet. They can just focus on family and not all the doctors’ visits. The slogan at Give Kids The World Village, ‘Happiness inspires hope,’ represents that well.”

Zoe’s brother Zane also was impacted by the experience.

“Ever since Zoe’s diagnosis and her Wish Trip, it made it even more clear how special this organization is,” Zane said. “What they do for the families on these trips is simply outstanding.”

Zane currently lives in Florida and is still involved with the organization.

“At least once a week, I volunteer at Give Kids The World Village working the daily parties, at the movie theatre, at breakfast and the character sessions, and helping families get their Wishing Star to Stellar the Star Fairy,” Zane said. “I am so grateful to be able to continue my work with Make-A-Wish and the Wish Families, and have a chance to be a part of their vacation and forever change their story.”

For Zoe’s friends, her experience helps remind them how important their hard work is.

Quahme’ Powell, Zoe’s friend since middle school and a cast member of the benefit, remembers Zoe’s diagnosis.

“We were locker buddies when Zoe got sick and we would always talk to each other at our lockers,” Quahme’ said. “I had a feeling that something was off and when I found out I was really sad. It’s always nice to be able to perform, but it’s also a really good feeling to know we are doing this for kids going through something so traumatic and helping to make their wish come true.”

Telling a story is what Zoe is focusing on for this specific show.

“I really wanted to focus on telling a story through the songs and how good overcomes evil,” Zoe said.

“This is a different concept because it’s Halloween-themed. It should be a lot of fun,” Zola Daverio, who will be performing in her third benefit next weekend, said. “It’s a lot of fun. I like being with all the people and singing Disney music.”

For Jaycie Neubauer, a senior at Montoursville, this her second time performing in one of Zoe’s benefits.

“I remember going to the show before, and it was awesome,” Jaycie said. “It’s a great cause and I get to hang out with a bunch of my friends. I made a lot of new friends, and we get to hang out for two hours every week doing what we love.”

Lily Douglass has danced in all three of the shows Zoe directed.

“She is an amazing director. She puts so much time and effort into it, and it becomes a great show,” Lily said. “It feels so good to be a part of something that is such a great cause, and it’s a great feeling to know how much money we have raised.”

Each year, the director and cast find more ways to promote the show and raise money.

The students have been preparing for this Halloween benefit since the end of August.

Doors will open at 6:15 p.m. for a Meet and Greet with various Disney characters and a Trunk-Or-Treat.

“At times, it can get overwhelming,” Zoe said, “but Make-A-Wish is something I’m very passionate about, so it’s never a chore. I’ve had the honor of helping make two amazing kids’ wishes come true, and as much as I know their wish has changed their life, their wishes have also changed mine. I encourage everyone to ‘Never underestimate the power of a wish!’ “

Reese is a senior at Williamsport Area High School.