By Natalie Sauls, Wish of a Lifetime™

Lily Westerlund, wearing orange, reunites with her family in Toronto, Canada, meeting some family members for the very first time.
Lily Westerlund, wearing orange, reunites with her family in Toronto, Canada, meeting some family members for the very first time.

To grow up with thirteen brothers and sisters is a feat in and of itself, Lily Westerlund can attest to this, but to have spent time as a child growing up at Tashme (a Japanese Internment Camp) is an entirely different experience – one of which few have knowledge of.

Lily Westerlund was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1930. During WWII, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Canadian government evacuated Lily and her family from their home and interned them to Tashme, a Japanese Internment Camp near Vancouver. It was there they stayed for four long years, where there was no electricity, very little water, and meager rations of food.

After the war, Lily and her family dispersed throughout Japan and Eastern Canada, and later migrated to Western Canada and the United States.

Employees from Wish of a Lifetime, a Denver based nonprofit that grants Wishes to senior citizens, discovered Lily’s Wish after visiting with seniors at the Washington Street Community Center in Denver (where Lily has volunteered for almost a decade). While talking to Lily about the hardships she’s been forced to overcome throughout her life, Lily’s Wish of a Lifetime surfaced – to travel home to Canada to see her family.

Thanks to Wish of a Lifetime, on June 15, 2013, Lily set course for her home in Toronto, Canada, to see her brother, sisters, nieces, and nephews one last time. She hadn’t seen some of them in twenty years, and she met cousins of hers for the very first time.

“I never imagined that something like this would ever happen for me,” said Lily, upon returning from her Wish.

Wish of a Lifetime™ fosters respect and appreciation for deserving seniors by fulfilling their life-enriching Wishes. Founded by two-time Olympic skier, World Cup gold medalist, entrepreneur, and former NFL football player Jeremy Bloom in 2008 in living honor of his grandmother, Wish of a Lifetime encourages the public to take an active role in granting Wishes through its Wish Connect program.

Wish of a Lifetime has made more than 700 wishes come true for seniors in 49 states and the District of Columbia. 93 percent of wish recipients stated they felt their quality of life improved after having their wish granted and 76 percent said they felt their overall health improved after experiencing a Wish.

Learn more and join our Wish Connect program to help fulfill a senior’s wish by visiting