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Realtors Group Raises More Than $23,000 For Make-A-Wish

The Make-A-Wish Committee with “Wish” recipient Lauren Shields (seated, second from left).
The Make-A-Wish Committee with “Wish” recipient Lauren Shields (seated, second from left). Photo Credit: Contributed

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- The Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors has raised a total of more than $23,000 for Make-A-Wish Hudson Valley, the Tarrytown-based non-profit organization that grants the wishes of Hudson Valley children suffering with life-threatening medical conditions.

The associations recent  “Just a Wish Away” Cocktail Party, held at the Clubhouse at Patriot Hills in Stony Point, raised more than $15,000 through sponsorships, raffles tickets for donated gift baskets, ticket sales and personal donations.  An earlier Garage Sale fundraiser, held by 22 real estate agencies throughout the Hudson Valley, brought in almost $8,000, for the local charity.

“We are so grateful to this Association for all it has done for our organization over the years,” said Tom Conklin, Make-A-Wish Hudson Valley chief executive officer.  “With the average cost of a wish ranging from $7,500 to $10,000, you will help us make so many more wishes come true.”

In addition to Conklin, the event’s special guest speaker was Lauren Shields, a “Wish” recipient and daughter of Jeanne Shields of Keller Williams Hudson Valley Realty in New City, N.Y.  Lauren, now 14, developed viral myocarditis, a rare heart disease, at age 8.

At the time, Jeanne Shields was in the middle of conducting her sales meeting when she got a call from Lauren’s school that she was sick with a swollen stomach.  Later, an X-ray and ultrasound revealed that fluids surrounded Lauren’s heart and she was hospitalized immediately.

“When I entered the hospital, my heart was functioning at only 14 percent,” Lauren said.  “I was later told I would need a heart transplant to save my life and I was placed on a waiting list.  Gradually I became sicker and my other organs started to shut down. I was put on cardiac and respiratory life support and went into a deep sleep.”

Lauren spent nine months at Columbia Presbyterian, Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital -- a month and a half of which was spent waiting for a new heart.  During this time, a hospital staff member contacted Make-A-Wish Hudson Valley.

When the donor heart finally arrived, the surgeons were worried that it might be too small, but after removing her old heart ,they saw that it was grossly enlarged.  The new one fit perfectly.

Following the March 2009 procedure, she suffered a stroke while recovering in the hospital. When she was well enough, she entered Burke Rehabilitation Center in White Plains, and later became an outpatient at Helen Hayes Hospital in West Haverstraw, N.Y.  “As I started to heal, just even the idea of a wish gave me so much to look forward to,” she added.

Since she had to spend so much time in her bedroom recovering, her wish was for a complete bedroom make-over.  The new animal-themed room now features zebra stripes on the wall, new furniture, a flat screen TV, and even some new clothes.

Make-A-Wish® Hudson Valley serves eight counties, including Putnam and Westchester. The organization is currently working on 160 wishes

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