The Prudential Center was transformed into every child’s dream come true Sunday afternoon — a whimsical candy land fairytale. CareOne hosted their 200 Wishes Fundraiser at the Newark arena on February 26th, which raised $1.3 million to support Make-A-Wish New Jersey. Spearheaded by CareOne CEO Daniel Straus and Executive Vice President Elizabeth Straus, the family-oriented event, which attracted more than 1,000 attendees, featured ice skating on the New Jersey Devils’ ice rink, carnival games and prizes, and Build-A-Bear Workshops.
The premier family-owned healthcare company, which is New Jersey’s largest privately-owned post-acute and long-term care provider, selects a charitable organization to support each year. Their past initiatives have raised more than $5 million in funds for organizations including Superstorm Sandy relief efforts and The Valerie Fund Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.
This year they chose Make-A-Wish New Jersey. All proceeds raised through their 200 Wishes campaign directly support the organization’s mission to grant wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions. Executive Vice President Elizabeth Straus tells me that they are very much invested in making sure this becomes an annual fundraising event.
“That’s the foundation of CareOne. I’m fortunate enough to be third generation. My grandfather and grandmother, their lives were centered around giving back and charity,” she said. “I was raised in a home where both my parents made sure that charity was center to all of our values. Being at CareOne, where we care for people, it seems only fitting that we give back and care for each other and those around us.”
Her father, CEO Daniel Straus, adds that the carnival-theme was an opportunity to really integrate the idea of making children happy, which is consistent with the values of Make-A-Wish Foundation. “The culture at CareOne is a culture of giving. Our employees are encouraged to volunteer, our executives are encouraged to volunteer, we’re always doing smaller fundraising events, and every year we highlight one significant cause and this year it’s Make-A-Wish Foundation,” he said. “It really allows us to remember that we are part of a community.”
The event also featured special guest appearances by Olympic Medalist Nancy Kerrigan and New Jersey Devils player Cory Schneider, who told me it was an honor to take part in the day. “It’s exciting to see some of the kids and their families and just try to make their day or brighten up their spirits,” Schneider said. “It’s an incredible gesture. It’s an amazing foundation and it has to come from somewhere, and groups like CareOne make that happen.”
Before Kerrigan hit the ice to show off her Olympic winning moves, she told me that she was so excited to be asked to take part in the festivities. “I felt honored to be able to come out and be a part of this,” she said. “I’m not a doctor where I can help, so if I can lend celebrity to be able to help in any way, I feel blessed to be able to do that.”
One of the families taking part in the fun and games were the Feders from Clifton. Now 6-years-old, Yoel Feder was 2 when a drunk driver hit him as he was coming out of his Kindergarten class. His mother Michelle Feder tells me that he was in a coma with a traumatic brain injury and wasn’t supposed to live. Miraculously he survived and is now flourishing, and Make-A-Wish was there to grant little Yoel the trip of a lifetime.
“They took us on a vacation to Jamaica. We had the best time,” Michelle tells me. “We were in the pool and I was holding onto my son and he goes to me, ‘Mommy I am so happy.’ And I never in my life thought I would hear that from this boy and that was Make-A-Wish. They did everything they could to make him happy and he deserved it.”
Adam Davis, the Chief Revenue Officer of Prudential Center and the New Jersey Devils, told me that this was the perfect event to align with the indoor arena’s dedication to the Garden State and giving back. “One of our commitments here at Prudential Center is the community and its all about Jersey for us, so to partner with Make-A-Wish New Jersey and host an amazing event, we are just privileged to be a part of it.”
The average wish costs $10,000, and Make-A-Wish New Jersey President and CEO Thomas Weatherall revealed that in their 34 year history, this was the largest one day fundraiser that was done on their behalf.
“200 wishes is almost 40 percent of our goal this year. From one company, it’s just absolutely astounding and quite unprecedented for us,” he said. “CareOne works with adults and seniors and they chose us to support our mission serving children. They are helping two of the most vulnerable populations. CareOne gets it.”