Giving Machines donations bless children battling critical illness

Salt Lake City Giving Machines donations mean children receive life-changing wishes through Make-A-Wish Utah

Because of generous people donating at the 2023 Giving Machines, 4-year-old Edel Wuthrich — who is battling cancer — will have her wish fulfilled to go to Hawaii with her family and swim like a mermaid.

Edel is one of 13 Utah children facing critical illness whose wishes can now be fulfilled after Make-A-Wish Utah was one of this year’s local charity partners with the Salt Lake City Giving Machines.

“We are so grateful to have been included in the Giving Machine and Light the World campaign,” said Make-A-Wish Utah President and CEO Daniel Dudley. “We can’t thank the individuals and families enough for giving so that kids like Edel can receive their life-changing wish.”

Edel Wuthrich, 4, helps unwrap a Giving Machine during the opening at City Creek Center in Salt Lake City.
Edel Wuthrich, 4, a Make-A-Wish Utah client, helps unwrap a Light The World Giving Machine during the opening at City Creek Center in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Elder Marcus B. Nash, a General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Missionary Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said, “The Giving Machines are a way for regular people like you and me to have an impact on individuals worldwide. It brings joy to both giver and receiver.”

Edel helped unveil the machines in November 2023 at City Creek Center and was thrilled by the experience. She has spent almost her entire life battling cancer — a tumor was found behind her eye after her pediatrician noticed something unusual during a routine wellness check when she was 4 months old. 

Going to Hawaii will allow her to play in the waves like her favorite movie characters, build memories with her family, and receive new hope and courage to fight her illness, Dudley said.

“That’s where the wish is so powerful because, yes, she has cancer, but it creates a shift in the whole process and the story for the family,” Dudley said. “Her doctors are talking and nurses are talking to her about that. It injects this huge dose of hope and positivity during an otherwise incredibly challenging time.”

That same hope and positivity will also bless other children and their families because of donations at the Salt Lake Giving Machines.

This was the first year Make-A-Wish Utah was part of the campaign. The red vending machines were in 61 locations during the 2023 holiday season, allowing people to buy something for someone else through local, national and international charity partners. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints covers all operational costs, allowing 100% of donations to go to those in need.

Since 2017, 1.5 million visitors have donated more than $22 million to local and global nonprofit organizations. As of Dec. 20, 2023, approximately 350,000 people had visited the 2023 Giving Machines, contributing to 75,000 separate transactions. The final numbers for the season are expected in early 2024.

A 2023 Light The World Giving Machine at City Creek Center in Salt Lake City.
A Light The World Giving Machine at City Creek Center in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023. $22 million has been donated through the giving machines globally since 2017. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Dudley said he was thrilled to be a part of the Giving Machines, not just because of how it benefited the children and families that Make-A-Wish serves but also to meet many of the other charities. 

“And then going to the Giving Machine several times throughout the whole season, there was a long line every time that I went. You could sense the energy, you could see parents explaining to their children telling them about the different causes that they could support,” he said. 

“It was incredibly inspiring to see people think externally and think about how they can make an impact during the holiday season.”

He said donations from Giving Machines are so impactful because over the last few years the average cash cost of each wish has increased because of inflation. Large donations generously made at the Giving Machines helped offset the cost — even while those donors have faced the impacts of inflation in their own lives.

Aaron Hall, director of finding for the Church’s Missionary Department, said people want to give and are willing to give — whether it is funding a child’s wish, or buying livestock or school supplies or any other donation offered in the Giving Machines.

“That’s the wonderful part of this experience. It’s just as thrilling to go and get something you hope for, but in this case, to give it to someone in need,” Hall told Spectrum News NY1 after the Giving Machines debuted in New York City.

“People are longing to do something good. What a great and simple way to do that,” he said. “... Parents and grandparents can teach their children about the blessing of giving, and what an opportunity it gives them to understand that it is going to someone in need.”

Edel Wuthrich, 4, wears a dress and stands among autumn trees and leaves.
Edel Wuthrich, 4, is pictured in late 2023. She has been battling cancer since she was 4 months old. | Provided by Make-A-Wish Utah
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