MOORHEAD — For nearly 40 years, we’ve heard amazing stories of Make-A-Wish making dreams come true for children facing life-threatening illnesses.
Much of the time, those wishes include trips to Disney World or meeting celebrities — but a 10-year-old Ohio girl who chose something much different was recently remembered by North Dakota's Make-A-Wish chapter on World Wish Day, April 29.
Staff from the local chapter gathered at Churches United for the Homeless in Moorhead to make and serve "Natalia's Soup of Love" for residents there.
After Natalia Marsh-Weldon was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2013 and was offered the chance for a once-in-a-lifetime wish, the Food Network fan told Make-A-Wish volunteers in Ohio that she'd like to make soup with a master chef and then give it and some blankets to the homeless.
"They partnered her with a top chef in the area to make the soup, and she actually told him, 'I think it needs more salt,'" North Dakota Make-A-Wish President and CEO Billi Jo Zielinski says with a big laugh. "She was just wonderful."
Natalia died in 2014, but Zielinski says World Wish Day was a great opportunity to honor Natalia's selflessness by repeating her wish at one of our local homeless shelters.
"Not only do we want to celebrate World Wish Day, but also celebrate the collaboration of the local nonprofit sector," Zielinski says. "We serve many different populations and this is a day to mark that."
According to the Make-A-Wish website, approximately 315,000 children have received wishes in the United States and its territories since 1980. In 2018 alone, 15,600 wishes were granted — that’s one every 34 seconds.
The idea for Make-A-Wish was born when friends and family members of 7-year-old Chris Greicius wanted to grant his wish to be a police officer before his impending death from leukemia. Chris died just weeks after his wish was granted, but the idea lived on.
Soon, Make-A-Wish chapters sprung up around the United States and 50 additional countries on five continents. But Zielinski says there's a misconception that they only serve terminally ill children like Natalia and Chris.
"Since 1980, as medicine has improved, many of our wish kids go on to thrive and survive," she says. "In fact, we're starting to get graduation cards from some of them."
Zielinski says parents are often reluctant to accept a wish because their child isn't dying.
"But we never want anyone not to experience hope and joy, either during respite from treatment or as a reward after treatment or just an opportunity to be normal," she says.
After just a few minutes of cooking at Churches United for the Homeless, the smell of vegetables sauteeing on the stove started to waft through the kitchen, meaning the soup was almost ready. Zielinski says there's a parallel for those who served up the soup last month at the shelter and what they do every day in the office.
"It's nourishment and nourishment for the soul. It's hope for people who need to get back on their feet again," she says. "This is how we connect with each other as humans."
Natalia's Soup of Love
Serves: 10 -12
1 large onion
1 large carrot
1 large turnip
1 large parsnip
3 stalks of celery
8 medium asparagus tips
1/4 butternut squash
2 Idaho potatoes
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
4 ounces green beans
1/2 whole broccoli
1/4 whole cauliflower
4 ounces spinach
2 ounces garlic
1 sprig of thyme
2 bay leaves
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 pats butter
5 ounces mini bow tie pasta
5 ounces white beans, cooked
In salty boiling water, cook asparagus, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, and spinach. Cool off and chop in small pieces. Set aside and keep the blanching water.
Cut into a small dice and keep trimmings: A)Carrot, turnip, parsnip, leek, celery, butternut squash, onion and garlic. Set aside with trimmings. B) Bell peppers and scallions. Set aside.
Cut potatoes and cook with the trimmings (from vegetables in A and B) in the blanching water until soft. Puree in blender. In a large pot, saute vegetables from A with butter and extra-virgin olive oil; add thyme and bay leaves. Cover with chicken stock, vegetable stock or water (chicken will give a stronger flavor; water will provide more of the true vegetables’ taste).
Simmer until vegetables cook, and add remaining vegetables and the vegetable puree. Add bow tie pasta and cooked white beans. Season with salt and pepper. Add cayenne pepper for a little kick.
Simmer, then remove bay leaves and thyme. Ready to serve!
Recipe provided by Make-A-Wish America