Debbie Tillman started out volunteering with Make-A-Wish as a way to cope with the loss of her three-year-old son, Robbie. She and her husband helped grant wishes to children in the Atlanta area, because there was no Make-A-Wish chapter covering the area at the time.
Slowly, but surely, their efforts attracted the support of other dedicated volunteers in north Georgia. Eventually their hard work caught their attention of the Make-A-Wish national office in Phoenix, Ariz., who encouraged the fledgling group to apply for chapter status.
On December 7, 1994, the birthday of Debbie’s late-son Robbie, Make-A-Wish America granted their request to be an official Make-A-Wish chapter. Thus, Make-A-Wish Georgia was born.
Our First Wish
The new chapter’s first wish came a few months later on May 23, 1995. Thirteen-year-old Ares wished to meet his favorite sports team, the Atlanta Hawks.
Ares and his family were picked up by a limo and he was presented with his very own Hawks jersey and basketball shoes.
This special young man spent the afternoon with the team, signing a one-day contract to be a player, judging a slam dunk contest and collecting autographs from the Hawks players.
Sadly, Ares passed away later that summer from his battle with cancer, however, a tradition of wish granting was established in the state of Georgia.
Twenty Years of Wishes
In 2015, Make-A-Wish Georgia celebrated our 20th Anniversary as a local chapter. The anniversary theme was visible at all of the signature events, including the Walk For Wishes, Tournament of Wishes and the Wish Ball.
The current staff also got a special visit from Debbie Tillman, who shared the story of the chapter’s establishment two decades prior. What started as a grassroots effort has grown into one of the largest national chapters in the Make-A-Wish organization.
June 18, 2003 – Chapter wins the first ever Infinite Wish Award from the national office, recognizing outstanding community engagement, for granting Frankie’s wish to be a country music star
- May 23, 1995 – First wish is granted to Ares to meet the Atlanta Hawks
- November 11, 2005 – The chapter’s 10th Anniversary is celebrated with the first annual Wish Ball; the chapter’s 3,000th wish was also granted that evening to Brianna, who wished to be a fashion designer
- May 29, 2008 – Chapter’s 4,000th wish is granted to Darrien, who wished to be a police officer
- May 15, 2011 – Caroline’s wish to have a puppy parade marks the chapter’s 5,000th wish
- July 12, 2013 – Emerson is granted the chapter’s 6,000th wish when she goes to New York City to see Annie on Broadway
- May 23, 2015 – Make-A-Wish Georgia celebrates our 20th Anniversary of granting wishes in Georgia
- Make-A-Wish Georgia is one of 62 local chapters in the United States
- 81 cents of every dollar spent goes towards wish granting
- The average cost of a wish is currently $10,800
- We currently have more than 700 kids waiting for their wish to come true
- Nearly 75% of our wishes involve travel, including 40% of wishes that are Disney related
- There are over 400 active wish granting volunteers across Georgia