Profile: The Simplest Wishes Have a Way of Coming True, Thanks to Her Initiative

Paula Saha | July 2, 2014 | Profiles
With her NJ-based nonprofit, One Simple Wish, Danielle Gletow is touching the lives of kids in foster care all across the country

Danielle Gletow, founder and executive director of the One Simple Wish foundation.
Name: Danielle Gletow

Why She Matters: Gletow is the founder and executive director of the Trenton-based nonprofit, One Simple Wish. The organization matches children in foster care across the nation with people who donate funds to grant them “one simple wish” — a suit, art supplies, even a playdate.

How she started: Gletow, who grew up in Jackson, NJ, says she has always wanted to adopt a child. She and her husband began to research their options and decided they wanted to adopt through the foster system. “I have this awesome life. Why wouldn’t I want to share that with somebody who may not have come from the same good fortune? These kids didn’t choose to be born into the circumstances they were born into. I knew the system needed people like my husband and I.”

Just the beginning: The more Gletow learned about the system, the more she wanted to do for kids in it. Not everyone could adopt, she knew, but there were other ways to help. “Getting a bicycle, or being able to enroll in soccer, meeting new people — all of these things tend to elude kids in foster care who are being moved around or raised in a group home.”

One Simple Wish was launched in 2008. The goal, Gletow said, “was to showcase in a very simple and manageable way how every person in our country can help these kids become the people they want to become by granting their simple wishes.”

How it works: Requests come to One Simple Wish through community organizations, and One Simple Wish posts the stories on the website. Donors can search the site and make donations, and One Simple Wish fulfills the wish.

The greater reward: Ultimately, Gletow’s hope is that her program leads to heightened awareness about children in the foster care system. While issues like education get the public fired up because they affect so many people so directly, “foster care is an issue that largely doesn’t impact the masses,” Gletow said. “There isn’t as much of a desire to make this system work . . . If people look at the individual stories instead of the statistics, they would feel a greater connection to the kid and feel that they can play a role.”

Accolades: Gletow has a great deal of recognition for her work and was named a 2013 Top 10 CNN Hero for Championing Children.

Her favorite wish: “I have tons,” she said. “They kind of continue to pile up over the years.” She recalls a special-needs boy named Charles, a 15-year-old who lived in a care facility. “He said his wish was to play outside with friends.”

One Simple Wish was able to set up a special day of outdoor fun for him, Gletow said. “It was exactly why our program exists. It is about things that may not seem so remarkable that really do make memories.”

Family: Daughters, Mia and Liliana, both 6. Husband, Joe.

On the road: This summer, Gletow and her daughters are on a cross-country trip highlighting 100 foster kids who have not yet been placed in an adoptive home. The Ultimate Wish website has campaign pages for each of the children and other ways people can pledge support, such as sending a child a care package.

“It’s also about redefining this idea of what it is to have a family,” Gletow said. “Just because a child doesn’t get adopted doesn’t mean they don’t have a family. Many of us consider our coworkers and friends our family. What role can you play? There is a role.”