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Corey Schieler makes wishes come true – no matter what

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Courtesy / Corey Schieler
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Corey Schieler is seen rappelling down a skyscraper in Chicago to raise money for Make-A-Wish.
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Corey Schieler is a State Farm executive by day, but in his spare time, he repels down skyscrapers, turns little girls into princesses, and conjures carnivals out of thin air.

He doesn't technically have superpowers, but Schieler is undoubtedly a hero to many families in Illinois. To date, he's granted 31 wishes through Make-a-Wish Illinois.

Schieler was inspired to become a wish-granter after developing a close friendship with his 6-year-old neighbor, Caitlyn, who suffered from brittle bone disease. He remembers Caitlyn's family telling him they were saving money to buy her a specially trained mobility dog. The dog cost $13,000. Schieler knew that would be a considerable strain on a family caring for a sick child.

“That night I went home and sketched out a carnival for our neighborhood to raise money for the dog,” Schieler said. He enlisted the help of all the neighbors, outfitting everyone in festive carnival attire and transforming yards and driveways into different attractions. When it was over, they’d raised $26,000. A few months later, Caitlyn got her dog.

“It was just magic,” Schieler remembers.

His friendship with Caitlyn set Schieler on a journey granting wishes for children facing critical or terminal illnesses. But as it did for a lot of journeys, the pandemic threw up a few roadblocks. Schieler said that many kids’ wishes centered around travel, which was made impossible due to COVID restrictions. In order to continue granting wishes, Schieler and others had to get creative.

“I think it was a really powerful moment for Make-A-Wish,” Schieler said. Children awaiting wishes need something to look forward to. The anticipation surrounding a upcoming adventure offers a distraction from the procession of appointments and procedures; a silver lining among what can feel like a sky full of clouds. Schieler knew how important it was to keep the magic going.

So for a girl named Ramona, who dreamed of visiting New York City, Schieler created a storybook depicting Ramona in fantastical New York scenes: having breakfast at Tiffany’s; taking part in a flash mob in Grand Central Station; and performing in a Broadway show. The project drew the attention of a former “wish kid” living in New York who contacted Ramona and later took her on a virtual tour. Schieler said it was important for Ramona to know that her trip may have been postponed, but her wish hadn’t been forgotten.

Since he began granting wishes, five of the children haven been lost to their disease. Knowing that he will encounter loss, Schieler said, doesn’t deter him from the cause.

“My job and my role and what I really enjoy is trying to bring as much happiness to them in the time that they have,” he said.

No matter what they may be going through, the children are remarkably resilient, Schieler said. He never sees tears, only smiles.

“I just get to see them happy,” he said.

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