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Making wishes come true

By Miriam G. Mazliach

December 25, 2012

Claudine Dentoni, a second grade teacher at Azevada Elementary in Fremont has a lot to smile about -- 41,711 letters worth! As Tri-City Voice readers may recall, in the November 6 issue our newspaper published an appeal from Dentoni on behalf of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and in memory of nine-year-old Fremont student Lynette Santos who had passed away from leukemia.

Dentoni made it her mission to inspire the school district’s students to write letters to Santa as part of Macy’s “Believe” campaign, and raise funds for Make-A-Wish. Macy’s committed to donating $1 per letter to the charitable organization, and on a specially designated “Believe Day,” would credit $2 per letter.

Collecting letters from various local school sites, after work each day, kept Dentoni very busy. Leah Laderas, Corporate Relations Manager for Make-A-Wish, even pitched in with the effort one day to help collect and count. Dentoni says she herself counted each night during the collection period and kept all of the letters at her house for safe-keeping. When she determined the date of “Believe Day,” she delivered the letters to the Walnut Creek Macy’s where she was assisted by a crew from Fire Station No.1 to help deliver them to the store.

The celebration of Dentoni’s efforts culminated with two school-wide assemblies held at Azevada Elementary on the morning of December 18. There she announced the amazing totals to the excited kids, staff, and parents, adding that the 41,711 letters had earned $83,422 for Make-A-Wish, enough to grant an additional 10 wishes!

Principal Carol Diamond said that the majority of Azevada students wrote more than two letters, while Laderas announced Azevada as the top letter-writing school in Fremont with 10,000. Quite an incredible feat!

As an extra thank you for the school’s support and hard work, Joy Deinla, Cause Marketing Manager at Macy’s presented a $1,000 check to Azevada Elementary. “You have the power to make a change in your local community, by making Bay Area wishes come true,” said Deinla.

Among those speaking during the assembly was Jenny Nieto, the parent of six-year-old Tomas, who had his Make-A-Wish request granted last year, by visiting the San Diego Zoo. Nieto explained that Tomas, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2008, is in remission and doing well.

Laderas was emphatic in stating, “Every eligible child in this chapter gets a wish granted. The criteria are that the youth must be between the ages of 2 and one-half to 17 years of age and have a life-threatening medical condition/illness.” Furthermore, she explained that eighty percent of Wish kids go on to adulthood and so this is something to look forward to, as part of their treatment process. Last year, the West Coast/Bay Area chapter granted 340 wishes and assisted in another 40 wishes.”

Also thanking the students for their fundraising letter campaign, were Ralph Zeien and his 17-year-old daughter Shelbi, diagnosed in 2008 with Crohn’s, an inflammatory bowel disease. She was recently granted her wish to meet Justin Bieber and attend a concert. Zeien is required to eat a special diet and has to endure transfusion treatments, of the medicine Remicade, every 6 weeks at UCSF Medical Center.

Deinla of Macy’s explains, “This is the fifth anniversary of the “Believe” campaign in partnership with Make-A-Wish, and is one of our favorite campaigns as it demonstrates kids have the power to give back to their community. It is our privilege to support them.”

Moreover, for Dentoni, there is a personal reason for her involvement with Make-A-Wish and why she holds it so dear. “When I was a child, I lost my 12-year-old brother. I know, first hand, the difficulty in trying to heal when a part of your family had been ripped from you, and the anguish dealing with the crippling pain that surrounds the loss of a child, or even their related illness.”

Dentoni expresses further that she feels it is her important job as an educator, to teach children to reach out to their community and do their due diligence to make a difference. “Through the help of each and every one who was a part of this great effort, we absolutely changed the lives of Make-A-Wish children, right here in our own communities. I am exceedingly proud of our accomplishments,” adds Dentoni.

You can watch the video for this year’s Believe campaign at:

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