In a brisk early-October weekend in 2017, hundreds of people lined the streets of Highwood, Illinois to celebrate one of the biggest weekends of the year: The Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival
. Carnival rides pierced the night sky with colorful lights, live local music punctuated the air, and smiles and laughs could be seen and heard throughout the town. The Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival brings the whole town of Highwood together to raise funds for Make-A-Wish Illinois, but it also brings together wish families from across the state to share how having a wish granted impacted their lives.
17-year-old Sydney Brodsky had just come home from her wish when she decided to attend the big event with her family. Sydney, who was diagnosed with cancer, had wished to attend the illustrious Paris Fashion Week for six days, where she took in everything that Paris had to offer: looking down at the city from the top of the Eiffel Tower, devouring the rich French meals, and plenty of shopping. The best part was attending three fashion shows. "It was incredible," Sydney thinks back.
While at The Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival, Sydney knew her wish coordinator would be there, so she made a point of seeking her out to thank her. It was then that she met Betsy Winick, and the two started talking.
"I knew of Betsy from family friends, but I didn't really know much about her," said Sydney. It was then that they realized that they didn't just have something in common; they might as well be twins.
Betsy was 15-years-old when she was diagnosed with cancer, and she had recently finished going through treatment when she was told she would have a wish granted.
"I felt I really didn't deserve the wish, but I knew I wanted to wish for something cool," said Betsy. She wished to travel to London and meet one of her idols, Stella McCartney. McCartney is a fashion icon who uses her fashion talents to not only design incredible clothing, but does so with an incredible philanthropic spirit. "She involved me in everything that was going on that day. I felt a part of something big."
Both Sydney and Betsy lived in the same area, both discovered they had cancerous tumors at roughly the same age, both wished to travel abroad to stoke their interest in high-fashion. "We got to talking, and we were both super passionate about Make-A-Wish," said Sydney. "It was nice to talk with someone who gets exactly what you are going through."
Since then, Sydney and Betsy have stayed in contact and have become friends. Their meeting at The Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival spurred a deep interest in spreading the impact that wishes have on children with critical illnesses.
"I think we both had a perspective shift after our wishes," said Betsy. "When you are that young, you become an adult because that's the only way to get through treatment. Now that we are both out of it, we really want to make an impact."
Sydney, having found an immense passion for fashion after her Paris Fashion Week wish, knows exactly what she wants to do now. "I can go into fashion in life. I can have a career in it. Make-A-Wish gave me that passion." Sydney is looking to further her interest in fashion after high school.
Betsy, while still a little off from graduation, is making a difference at school. She makes and sells pins to encourage kids to be "kind and aware."
"I want them to see themselves how they wish to be. Take action instead of waiting for things to happen." These pins are sold in boutiques in Highland Park, Betsy's hometown. 100% of proceeds are being donated to charities.
Because of a chance meeting at The Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival in Highwood, Sydney and Betsy met and became fast friends. Finding support, friendship and a caring community are more impactful benefits of becoming part of the Make-A-Wish family.