Amazing Kids! Magazine

Adult Spotlight Interview with Danielle Gletow

By Ashley Lin, Assistant Editor, Adult Spotlight Interviewer and Poetry Editor

 

What did you wish for on your birthday? For Christmas? How about just because? We all have wishes, such as getting new shoes, or a new pet – and when we do finally get that new basketball, that trip to Hawaii, we’re beyond excited. I know when I receive a present, I feel like someone notices me, that my voice is being heard, and that I’m appreciated. All children deserve to be loved, and every child deserves to experience the hope and joy when receiving a present. This idea is at the heart of One Simple Wish, an online platform connecting the simple wishes of foster youth, to the many of us who can grant them.

Each year, more than 500,000 children are impacted by abuse, neglect, and abandonment. While spending time in the foster care system, children can be separated from school, friend, and siblings they love. Imagine this happened to you. Would you still think you matter? One Simple Wish keeps these children in our minds and hearts by granting simple wishes such as a unicorn puzzle for a little girl, or a laptop for a student embarking on her collegiate journey. Consider granting a wish here, and becoming the secret Santa for a child in need. You could make someone’s day; how cool is that?

When these wishes come true, kids have a chance to just be kids: to have new experiences, meet new people, or connect with the world – and realize they are important, and they matter. Today, we have the opportunity to talk with Danielle Gletow, Founder and Executive Director of One Simple Wish. She’s going to share with us more about her journey and inspire us to give back ourselves!

Amazing Kids (AK): What inspired or called you to create One Simple Wish?

Danielle Gletow (DG): My husband and I became foster parents in 2006 with a goal of adopting. Like many people we had no idea what the foster care system was all about but we knew we wanted to adopt a child and we knew we wanted to be a safe plan to land for kids who were experiencing trauma. From the moment we welcomed our first foster child into our home, our whole lives changed. We knew then that this was our purpose in life – to be a voice for these amazing kids who did not ask to be born into the situations they are in. After my daughter Mia was placed with us in 2007 and I found out I was pregnant just two weeks later, we decided to close our home to fostering any more children but we knew that we still had a lot of work to do. I started One Simple Wish while on maternity leave with Liliana in the late summer of 2008. It was my way of giving kids a chance to tell the world who they were and what would bring them the most joy – a chance to let them just be kids!

AK:  How did you turn an idea into an organization with such great impact? Who and what resources helped you along the way?

DG: It was, and continues to be, a lot of hard work and a labor of love! I am fortunate to be surrounded by super supportive people like my husband Joe and my best friend Kim who were two of our first Board members and provided countless hours of talent, resources and funding to get us started and keep us going. I work hard – every day – and I don’t ever lose sight of why I’m doing this. Or, if I do, I quickly remind myself what this is all about – the kids. That is always enough to motivate me to keep going and to work harder.

AK: If you had to describe One Simple Wish in a color, what would it be and why?

DG: Oooh, good question! I would say yellow. It’s bright and happy and reminds you of sunshine and light. That is what we strive to be for these kids.

AK: Can you tell us more about foster children, and the challenges they face?

DG: Foster kids – for the most part – are just like every other kid. They want to be loved, heard, and supported. They are unique and beautiful and resilient and brave. The only big difference is the challenges that they have faced in their home lives. And because of the stereotypes out there they also have to deal with people assuming they did something to put them in foster care – but they didn’t. They are some of the bravest kids I know.

AK: What is the most memorable moment you have had with a student One Simple Wish served, and how has it impacted your life?

DG: There have literally been thousands. It’s too hard for me to pick one because every wish matters so much to the kids and therefore they matter so much to us. They are all memorable. Every single one.

AK: How has One Simple Wish evolved, and what are some goals for the future?

DG: When we began we only served kids in NJ but now we are serving kids in 40 states with plans to reach all 50 by the end of 2018. We have also launched cool features like “Follow A Child” that allow people to continue supporting kids they have helped in the past by being the first to receive notice when that child has a new wish. Our goal for the future is to do more to connect youth who are aging out of the system to resources in their community so that they know they are not alone and that they have a constant in their life that can continue to support them.

AK: How can everyday students get involved [maybe with One Simple Wish] and help their peers feel like they’re heard and loved?

DG: One amazing way is to purchase a LovedBy bag. Every time a bag is purchased another bag is donated to One Simple Wish AND they donate 100% of the profits to grant wishes! They can also dedicate their birthday or milestone by creating a fundraising page and asking people to give to One Simple Wish instead of getting gifts. They can also host a LovedBy bag drive and stuff party. There are so many things they can do in their communities and we are happy to connect to anyone who is interested in learning more!

AK: Can you give students some ideas on how we can spread love, hope, and joy?

DG: Be kind. To everyone. It really is that simple. Kindness can really change everything.

AK: Is there anything else you would like to add, or a story you’d like to share?

DG: Every person has SO much power to change another person’s life. And it doesn’t cost a lot of money or take a lot of time. Embrace and use that power. Be kind. Show up when you are needed. Listen when someone is in need. In this increasingly divisive climate we live in, it is so important to remember that we are all connected and we all deserve to feel loved and valued.

AK: Who has been a mentor or confidante to you throughout your life or experience with One Simple Wish?

DG: My mom! She is my best friend in the world and my most fierce advocate and defender. She saved my life when I was a teenager battling severe anxiety and depression – something that continues to plague me today. Without her, I don’t know where I would be and she serves as a daily reminder of the power of love.

Thank you so much Danielle, for taking the time to share with us your unique insights and experience through One Simple Wish! Kindness really CAN change everything, so I urge readers to weave little acts of kindness into your daily routine. Whether it’s offering your support, or just being a listening ear, we all have the power to impact the lives of others around us. Let’s make our impact a positive one!

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