My wish experience started when I met with my wish granters. My treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma took place during the spring and summer of 2007. At that point, golf was my only viable physical activity, so it was natural my wish would revolve around the sport. Golf helped me feel normal and allowed me to escape my reality, if only for a short time.
Knowing that I could have a Make-A-Wish gave that 16-year-old me hope and allowed me to dream — to think of something I really wanted to experience. It helped me envision a time when I would feel good again. I dreamed about my wish for nine months before ending treatment in September 2007.
My wish in August 2008 was to play TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, home of The Players Championship. The weeklong trip with my family — golfing multiple times wedged between jet skiing, parasailing and touring the golf Hall of Fame — felt like I was on the PGA Tour. Just as importantly, it felt like the final act to my illness.
That’s why my family and I started Play It Foreward 518. The not-for-profit foundation holds an annual golf tournament in August as well as smaller events during the year, with the proceeds going to both Make-A-Wish of Northeast New York and The Bernard & Millie Duker Children’s Hospital at Albany Medical Center. Since our inception five years ago, we have eclipsed the $100,000 mark in net proceeds and have sponsored four wishes. Being able to see the joy on the faces of the children we help serve puts life in perspective, both looking back and looking forward.
Joe Watroba is a wish kid and president of Play it Foreward 518.