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Find out more about the recent Channel 5 documentary that takes a look behind the scenes at the children's charity Make-A-Wish UK.

What are the programmes about?

“Make A Wish for Christmas” was  commissioned by Channel 5 and produced by an independent production company called Tern TV. The two-part series was filmed between July and November this year when cameras followed some of the charity’s Wishgranters as they organised wishes for the seriously ill children whose families or friends were having wishes with us. They then filmed some of those wishes too.  Episode one is being broadcast at 9pm on Thursday 12th December and Episode two is at 8pm on Wednesday 18th December on Channel 5.

Why did Make-A-Wish decide to take part in the programme?

We decided to open our doors to cameras for the first time for two reasons. Firstly, because we want to spread the word about the impact that wishes have on children and their families at a time of increased demand. A wish gives a seriously ill child or young person the chance to make a choice when so much is dictated for them by the nature of their condition or by their treatment. A wish gives children and their families something positive to look forward to and to plan. It also gives back some childhood to those who have had to grow up quickly.

Secondly, as a charity we try to be transparent about what we do. We agreed to work with Tern TV following several approaches by different production companies over the years. Tern brought with them experience of making factual television about sensitive issues and this was important to us. They have a sympathetic approach, a robust permissions process and comprehensive filming protocols including support post-broadcast for all contributors. We spent time getting to know Tern’s production team and built up trust with them.

How were the wishes featured chosen for the programme?

The charity approached around 100 wish families from a diverse range of backgrounds on behalf of the production company to explain what taking part in the documentary would involve. Those families were contacted because they were happy to talk about their child’s wish and diagnosis, because their wish fitted into the time frame for filming, and because third parties involved in granting their wish were also happy to be involved. New wish applicants were notified by email that we were the focus of a television documentary and that they would be given the chance to opt in or out of that process. Staff and volunteers were also given this option.

Did the charity pay for the programme? How much did it cost?

No. The programme was produced by an independent production company for commercial television so we did not pay for it.

How can I support Make-A-Wish UK?

Thank you! We rely on your donations and the generosity of our communities and our volunteers’ time because the charity receives no government funding and more children than ever before are turning to us for a wish, with 1,400 in the past four months alone.

You can support Make-A-Wish UK by donating online here, by taking part in fundraising activities like challenge events to raise money for us, by buying tickets or donating an auction prize to one of our glitzy events like the Valentine’s Ball or even by leaving us a gift in your will. You can support us also with your time or through gifts in kind that could go towards a child’s wish. It also helps when you like, share and follow us on social media to tell others about our work and the opportunities available to support us.

How can I volunteer?

You can find out more about volunteering for Make-A-Wish UK and view our current opportunities via the following link.

Find out more about volunteering

How do I apply for a wish?

You can find out more about applying for a wish via the following link.

Find out more about applying for a wish

Are wishes only for terminally ill children?

We offer wishes to children who are described in medical terms as being critically or seriously ill. A proportion of the wish applications and referrals from health professionals we receive are for children whose prognosis means their wish is a high priority for us. However, many children go on to recover from their illness – our very own Regional Fundraising Manager Nikki Wrench is one example of this. 

Read Nikki's story

How can I apply to become a Wishgranter? It looks like a great job.

We are proud of the work that our wishgranting team delivers. Vacancies for both permanent roles and volunteering opportunities are posted on our website.

View our current vacancies
View our current volunteer opportunities

How much does a wish cost?

Each wish varies greatly depending on the type of wish requested, the time we have in which to organise it, the number of individuals in the wish child’s family (because siblings are included), the number or offers of help or donations in kind that we receive, and the cost of any insurance, travel or extra medical needs. On average though, a wish costs about £3,000 - many cost less than this and a few are more expensive.

How do you ensure that a wish is what the child wants and not what their parents want?

Our wish visitors are all volunteers who are carefully trained to ensure that they find out what each child’s greatest wish is. They use tools like a mood board or wish book to encouarge a child to draw pictures or list all their likes and dislikes. They also delve into the ‘why’ of a wish using techniques and questions to really understand this so that each wish is unique to that individual. Where a child is non-verbal there’s inevitably an element of interpretation on the child’s part, and a greater dependence on families to help capture their preferences.

Do some companies you work with provide wishes for free?

Some companies are very generous in helping us to grant wishes in a cost-effective way. We have some trusted partnerships for more popular wishes as this provides us with significant savings and value for money, which ultimately means we can grant more wishes. Individuals also sponsor wishes (find out more here) or approach us with kind offers of support which also help significantly. Driving further value from relationships is important to us, particularly as we are receiving more enquiries about wishes than ever before.

What proportion of my donation goes on wishes?

A large proportion of donations goes on wishes and we also invest in fundraising to ensure that there is enough money available to grant the wishes of the children who turn to us in the future.

For every £1 we spent in 2018, 63p was spent on wishgranting; the remaining money was invested in fundraising. For every £1 we invested in this way, we generated £2.09.

How many wish applications do you get? How many of them are Disney?

We receive an average of 13 wish applications a day although this has gone up significantly in recent months. Around a third of our wishes are to go to Disneyland Paris.

Tell us about the Make-A-Wish offices

The charity had been based in Camberley, Surrey, since it was founded in the UK in 1986. Those offices were spread across three floors and there was limited accessibility for wheelchair users. This, together with significant maintenance costs, prompted us to make the 13-mile move to an accessible single-floor community ‘hub’ within a recently refurbished tower block at Thames Tower in Reading, Berkshire. The relocation, in 2018, was funded through the sale of the Camberley premises. The hub is an inclusive and inviting space for wish families, volunteers, staff and our corporate partners, bringing the whole wish community closer together. It’s a space that is child-focused, wheelchair-friendly and well connected. Thames Tower is recognised as a centre for innovation in Reading and the charity has already collaborated with other tenants in the building. Reading is recognised as a productive and growing economy, attracting many new businesses in recent years, with excellent transport links with the rest of the UK.

How many staff work at Make-A-Wish?

There are approximately 70 full-time staff at Make-A-Wish but we also rely heavily on around 420 volunteer wish visitors and many other volunteers who play a vital role in what we do.