Tori Maszak, center, enjoys the music at her Make-A-Wish party Aug, 13 with her great-grandparents Sandra and Robert Maszak of Homewood. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
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Special wish granted to Tori Maszak of Homewood

Tori Maszak, center, enjoys the music at her Make-A-Wish party Aug, 13 with her great-grandparents Sandra and Robert Maszak of Homewood. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
Tori Maszak, center, enjoys the music at her Make-A-Wish party Aug, 13 with her great-grandparents Sandra and Robert Maszak of Homewood. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

Tori Maszak of Homewood was the guest of honor at a celebratory party for the 12-year-old hosted by Make-A-Wish Illinois on Sunday, Aug. 13.

“We’re celebrating this wonderful young lady,” Make-A-Wish volunteer Catherine Dixon told the audience gathered at the Irwin Center in Homewood. 

Make-A-Wish’s goal is fulfilling a child’s wish. It helps them look past their limitations, helps families overcome anxiety and helps entire communities experience joy, according to Jessica Miller of Make-A-Wish Illinois. 

Tori Maszak, front, was the guest of honor at a Make-A-Wish celebration on Aug. 13. With her are, from left, great-grandfather Robert Maszak, Catherine Dixon (behind Robert) and Sandra Julun, Make-A-Wish volunteers who helped plan the party; great-grandmother Sandra Maszak, and Tori's brother Owen, 10, and sister Aria, 7. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
Tori Maszak, front, was the guest of honor at a Make-A-Wish celebration on Aug. 13. With her are, from left, great-grandfather Robert Maszak, Catherine Dixon (behind Robert) and Sandra Julun, Make-A-Wish volunteers who helped plan the party; great-grandmother Sandra Maszak, and Tori’s brother Owen, 10, and sister Aria, 7. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

“Most importantly, according to recent research, wishes can improve a child’s quality of life,” she said. The organization is funded through individual, corporate and foundation donations. 

Tori, who is mostly nonverbal, has cerebral palsy and a life-threatening neurological disorder. She was referred to Make-A-Wish by her medical team at Advocate Children’s Hospital.

Tori gets very animated when Beatles music is played, so Make-A-Wish had American English, a Beatles tribute band, as the entertainment for her party. The band played familiar songs of the 1960s for about three hours. Tori also received a bag for school supplies decorated with a picture of the Beatles. 

Tori loves to eat, especially pizza, so Homewood-Flossmoor High School student volunteers with GenXsis Steppers served Aurelio’s pizza, ice cream from Homewood’s Dairy Queen and beverages to the dozens of people who came to the celebration.

Most in the audience wore purple T-shirts embossed with a guitar and the words “Come Together for Tori.” The shirts were provided by ABC Supply, a corporate supporter of Make-A-Wish. About two dozen employees helped set up for the event.  Decorations of paper records, musical notes and balloons were on the tables.

Dixon and her sister, Sandra Julun, both of Homewood, are Make-A-Wish granters. They started planning the event in April with Tori’s great-grandparents and caregivers, Robert and Sandra Maszak of Homewood. Dixon said when they would visit with Tori and the Maszaks “we could feel the warmth that they were so excited for us to be there. They opened their home to us.”

GenXsis volunteers serving guests at the Make-A-Wish party were, from left Robyn Dukes, a 2023 graduate of Homewood-Flossmoor High; Madison Keelen, an H-F junior; and Aaliyah Miller, a 2023 H-F graduate. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
GenXsis volunteers serving guests at the Make-A-Wish party were, from left Robyn Dukes, a 2023 graduate of Homewood-Flossmoor High; Madison Keelen, an H-F junior; and Aaliyah Miller, a 2023 H-F graduate. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

At the start of the party, Make-A-Wish volunteers presented Tori with a bouquet of pink roses, pink being her favorite color. 

As a young child, Tori was able to walk with a walker but her health challenges have progressed to the point that she will be in a wheelchair the rest of her life, Robert Maszak said. Tori attends Elan Christian School.  Several friends from her school were at the party.

Although Tori is nonverbal, her teacher Mikayla Wall said the staff uses visual cues to understand what Tori wants or needs. 

Rick Schram of ABC Supply shows off the T-shirt volunteers and supporters wore at the Make-A-Wish party for Tori Maszak. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
Rick Schram of ABC Supply shows off the T-shirt volunteers and supporters wore at the Make-A-Wish party for Tori Maszak. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

“She has lots of emotions. She has expressions that help us know what she wants,” Wall said. Tori understands when spoken to, and “we have a picture book so she can let us know by selecting a picture.”

Tori’s mother, Nicole Maszak, said her daughter requires an extraordinary amount of care. When Nicole gave birth to a second child just days before Tori’s first birthday, her grandparents offered to help raise Tori. Nicole, also of Homewood, now has four children, including Tori. 

The Maszaks were gifted a car in Homewood Chevy Cares contest in 2018, but Maszak said they recently sold the car to help pay for a specially equipped van so they can transport Tori.

Dixon, the Make-A-Wish volunteer, said she works with families to provide a child’s wish. Tori’s party was the 10th wish she’s worked on over the past six years and her sister, Sandra Julun also of Homewood, has volunteered for four years. Dixon said it is the best work she’s done. 

“I just love it. It’s a wonderful experience,” she said. Dixon encourages others to consider volunteering with the organization.

Anyone interested in working with Make-a-Wish as a south suburban volunteer can attend a volunteer orientation meeting offered online. Information is at wish.org/illinois/volunteer.

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