W hen 12-year-old Madison Wilson Walker skated around the rink to pick up flowers and teddy bears during ice skating competitions at the Winter Olympic Games last month, you would have never guessed she had prosthetic legs.
"It's magical to see her get on the ice," says Tamara McCarron, a member of the Rotary Club of Calgary Olympic, Alberta, Canada. "It would never occur to you that she skated with any disadvantage at all. It's truly inspiring."
Walker was one of six children with life-threatening illnesses who had their wishes come true at the Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The Calgary Olympic club teamed up with the Children's Wish Foundation of Canada to provide accommodations for the children, ages 4-14, so they could attend.
"Having the opportunity to have six wish children and their families take part in the Olympic experience, thanks in part to Rotary, was absolutely outstanding," says Amber Dyce, chapter director of the foundation. "The families were surprised with the overwhelming response from the athletes and people around Vancouver when they were identified as wish families. Their ear-to-ear grins were proof enough that their most heartfelt wish had been granted."
The six families, who live in different parts of Canada, attended several events at the Olympics from 12 to 28 February, including the highly anticipated men's gold medal hockey game.
The children knew for more than a year that they were going to attend the games. The anticipation was the highlight for the families and kept them going through the dark days, says McCarron, who chaired the project and joined the families in Vancouver.
"We have a pretty small club, only 28 members, but each of them had a hand in making the children's wishes come true," says McCarron. "We have forged a lifelong connection with these families."
RVM: The Rotarian Video Magazine will be including the children's Olympic experience in a future issue. Also look for footage in a video about the 100-year history of Rotary in Canada, to be shown at the 2010 RI Convention in Montréal, Québec.