BY DENNY McCARTHY | MIRROR REPORTER — For the last 16 years, Tracey Elmore has been working to prove herself grateful.
When her daughter Marissa was 4 years old in 2005, she was diagnosed with Wilms tumor, a type of childhood kidney cancer, and had to have a kidney removed. That’s when the Make-A-Wish Foundation stepped in and granted her a weeklong trip to Disney World.
“When the social worker approached us toward the end of her therapy, we were blown away at the opportunity,” Tracey said. “It was about a month before Christmas when we were eligible and it gave us something different to talk about other than treatment.”
The experience was so positive for the family that Tracey started hosting an annual holiday craft show to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation, setting new landmarks and breaking the previous year’s fundraising goal each time.
The show originally started as a two-day Santa shop and craft fair event hosted by the Maumee Elementary PTO. When the organizers started looking for another organization to split the show’s proceeds with, in addition to the PTO, Tracey jumped at the opportunity and began the process of spearheading the event.
“When the PTO got together, they said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we gave something to charity, so it gave people ownership of giving something to a charity at Christmas time?’ and I raised my hand really quick and said, ‘Make-A-Wish!’” Tracey said excitedly.
Since then, she has grown the show from taking place in a school facility to filling a 38-table event hall at the Lucas County Recreation Center, to consistently selling out a 129-table rec center hall. The fundraising has grown exponentially, too, from the original shows only giving a portion of a few thousand dollars to Make-A-Wish to a current fundraising expectancy of at least $10,000 going entirely to the foundation each year.
Even with COVID-19 restrictions causing last year’s 15th annual show to be online only, it still managed to bring in $15,000, letting Tracey hit her goal of “15-for-15” between the online show, a half-capacity spring show to make up for the winter show’s cancellation, and a solo mask-sewing operation run by Tracey.
“People paid what they wanted,” said Tracey, who sewed about 800 masks. “To make over $7,000 worth of masks … it never occurred to me.”
Tracey originally wanted to pay Make-A-Wish back by raising $8,000 – the average cost of a wish. In the 16 years since, that original overall goal has been shattered. Tracey, her event volunteers and the crafters have together managed to bring in 10 times that amount at about $80,000.
With all the milestones and accomplishments behind her, Tracey has decided it’s time to hand the reins to somebody else for the show.
Marissa is now a senior at Ohio University, which Tracey sees as the end of a chapter for them and their endeavor.
“It’s kind of wrapping up her journey through her life, schooling and adulthood. I just felt like this would be a good time to transition because this is a success story,” Tracey said.
Tracey plans to hand over the craft show to Laura Perkins and Dawn Steinmiller, who have done the event with her multiple times.
Although it’s her last year fully in charge, Tracey hopes this year’s show is the biggest yet and that it keeps growing under the new organizers.
The 2021 show will be sponsoring Wyland Hawk, a 6-year-old boy who has been battling T-cell lymphoma for over two years and has become a local celebrity.
“The whole community has rallied around this family ever since,” Tracey said. “Everybody knows Wyland in Maumee.”
Wyland is in remission and finishing his exhaustive treatment process next month. His family, which had already booked a surprise trip to Disney World before he was diagnosed, are going on their long-awaited Make-A-Wish trip next year.
“This has been a trip in the works for a few years,” his mother Jill said, laughing. “We’re just so happy that we’ve made it to the end and that we can make it happen.
“Wyland is excited (for the craft show). Tracey stopped over today to pick up some raffle baskets and he was so happy to see her,” she said. “He asked if he could get on the stage and talk to people and introduce himself. He is quite the character.”
Tracey considers benefiting Wyland another special thing about her final show, since she’s always wanted to sponsor him. His story also rings true for her; Wyland and Marissa were the same age when they were diagnosed.
Marissa, who has become a spokesperson for the show’s success story, has been happy to see that her wish at 4 years old has eventually gone on to fund at least another 10.
“It’s been a really cool experience watching it grow through the years and to see how many people have been helped,” she said. “I think (my mom) doing this for no reason other than her wanting to is amazing. It’s really inspiring and giving and selfless of her.”
The 16th annual Crafting Wishes for Make-A-Wish craft show will take place at the Lucas County Recreation Center, 2901 Key St. in Maumee, on Saturday, Dec-ember 4 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., rain or shine. It will feature over 120 vendors and crafters, pictures with Santa, live music, chair massages, auctions, raffles and lunch provided by Maumee Bay Brewing Co. The event is free to attend with free parking.
Wyland is also planning on appearing at the show from about 10:00 a.m. to noon to meet anybody who has been inspired by his story.
The event is sponsored by the Church of St. Andrew United Methodist, Torrence Sound Equipment Company, Leaf Filter Gutter Protection and Roth Insurance Agency Inc.
Those interested in supporting or entering next year’s show may do so by joining the Facebook group named “Holiday Craft Show for Make-A-Wish.” To follow or look back at Wyland’s journey, visit the “Wyland’s Warriors” Facebook page.