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October 8, 2013 > Making wishes: at ÔBowl-A-ThonÕ

Making wishes: at ÔBowl-A-ThonÕ

By Sara Giusti

Despite two too many open heart surgeries, meds by the handful, and constant anxiety that this could be the last day, Dylan Johnson met Mickey Mouse at Disneyland thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. His joy undoubtedly matched the enormity of those iconic ears. But whose wouldnÕt, after the ups and downs of fighting a congenital heart disease (CHD)?

Ten days after meeting Mickey Mouse, Dylan died from CHD complications in July 2000. He was only two years old. Over 300 people came to his funeral. Although he was so young, he was already making a difference. ÒDylanÕs purpose of life was to make people think of life differently,Ó said his mom Veronica Johnson. And that is an understatement: his memory has changed lives, and continues to do so, more than a decade after his death.

Since 2000, Veronica has been raising money for the Make-A-Wish FoundationÕs Greater Bay Area Chapter at the annual ÒDylan Johnson Memorial Bowl-A-ThonÓ held at Cloverleaf Family Bowl in Fremont. Now in its 14th year, Veronica plans to reach a quarter of a million dollars, a fantastic feat of perseverance, determination, and passion. Just $33,000 short, Veronica raised that same amount last year. ÒEvery year we have progressed up and up [in raising funds]. And itÕs like, really? I am able to do this?Ó Veronica laughed. She considers herself a one-woman show, not a committeeÑjust a mom who lost a child. She is on a mission to grant more wishes to children through Make-A-Wish, just like how her own sonÕs wish was granted many summers ago.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation has been granting wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses since 1980. It is important to note that a child does not need to be terminally ill to participate in Make-A-Wish; many people confuse life-threatening with terminally ill, Veronica noted. Make-A-Wish has granted more than 226,000 wishes in the United States, with more than 6,000 coming from the Greater Bay Area. All donations to ÒDylanÕs Memorial Bowl-A-ThonÓ go back to the Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Chapter. So far, Bowl-A-Thon donations have directly granted 30 wishes to children, and thereÕs no plan to stop granting wishes anytime soon.

This yearÕs Bowl-A-Thon has over 150 raffle prizes and over 40 silent auction items, ranging from a footballs signed by Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore, Steve Young, and Jerry Rice; a two-night stay at San FranciscoÕs Hyatt on the Embarcadero; a Joe Thornton signed jersey; a Pete Rose signed jersey and baseball bat; and a Jim Otto signed jersey, just to name a few items. The Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Quilt Project, an organization traveling across the country spreading awareness of CHD, will make an appearance, as will FremontÕs own mayor, Bill Harrison.

Tickets are $20 for three games and shoe rental. Cloverleaf Family Bowl will be closed to the public, so reservations are needed to bowl. The Bowl-A-Thon brings in a packed house, so reserve your spot with Cloverleaf before tickets sell out like years prior.

If you would like to make a donation to the Bowl-A-Thon, contact Veronica directly at (510) 517-3017 or Moreover, Veronica is on the Advisory Board of the Greater Bay Area Make a Wish Chapter and would be more than thrilled to speak to organizations, schools, and companies about Make-A-Wish.

ÒThis has made me into a better person. I donÕt take anything for granted,Ó Veronica said, adding, ÒWhen someone needs help, help them. We want you to understand you are not alone. There are good people out there.Ó

If anyone knows the adage of life after death, it is Veronica and her family. What would be a horrifically paralyzing situation has instead become a call for action and building of community. Good things are happening in Fremont, one wish at a time.

Dylan Johnson Memorial Bowl-A-Thon
Saturday, Oct. 12
Noon check-in, Bowling: 1:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Cloverleaf Family Bowl
40645 Fremont Blvd., Suite 3, Fremont
(510) 656-4411
Cost: $20

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