Kids Wish Network
|Motto||Where dreams really do come true|
Kids Wish Network is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions. It has been the subject of negative publicity throughout its history, including accusations of trademark infringement, tax avoidance and inefficient fundraising practices. It was named "the worst charity in the nation" in a 2013 review of charities with wasteful spending practices.
The Kids Wish Network was founded in 1997 as the "Fulfill a Wish Foundation" by Mark Breiner, his wife Shelley Breiner and Shelley's mother Barbara Askin in honor of Shelley's father, who died of cancer in 1993. In 1998, the company's name was changed to "Kids Wish Network" as part of a settlement after the Make-a-Wish Foundation sued the organization on the premise that it had a confusingly similar name.
The organization's beneficiaries are children between the ages of 3 and 18 who have overcome life-altering circumstances, often enduring a great deal of pain and suffering. In 2004, it had granted 143 wishes and in 2013 it granted 800 wishes.
Some of its wishes have been granted by celebrities such as musician Brad Paisley, professional wrestler John Cena, R&B artist Keyshia Cole, NFL coach Jon Gruden, country singer Taylor Swift, and the Green Bay Packers.
In 2008, Charity Navigator gave Kids Wish Network zero out of four stars in its "efficiency rating" based on how much money is spent on fundraising in comparison to charitable activities. The American Institute of Philanthropy also gave it a failing "F" grade. Kids Wish Network claimed the fundraising spending was needed for new non-profits to develop a donor base. A Charity Navigator spokesperson alleged the Kids Wish Network was taking advantage of tax loopholes for non-profits by counting some of its fundraising activities as charity work and that it had the highest percent of funds spent on fundraising out of all 24 wish-granting charities. Representatives of the charity said comparing them to other wish-granting services was unfair, since they also provide funeral services and other services. Kids Wish Network has received higher marks in other areas, for example receiving four stars for organizational capacity the prior year.
In 2013 the Tampa Bay Times, CNN and the Center for Investigative Reporting created a ranking titled "America's Worst Charities" based on "cash paid to solicitors in the last decade." It reported that the organization had spent $110 million on fund-raising solicitors over the prior decade, making it number 1 on the list. According to the report, only three cents out of every dollar raised is spent on wish-granting. The company said it hires outside contractors to handle fundraising so that its staff can focus on wish fulfillment, which consists primarily of handing out toys and coloring books that have been donated to the company.
The report also said that the organization was paying several million dollars on services to companies operated by Breiner, who retired as the Executive Director in 2010. Since his retirement, Kids Wish Network has paid Breiner's companies $3.3 million. The charity first reported the payments in amended tax filings in 2012 after an employee took her concerns about insider dealings to the charity’s board.
According to the report, "Kids Wish violated IRS rules by waiting four years to disclose the money it paid Breiner. The charity blamed the delay on a mistake by its accountants." Breiner said that Kids Wish Network had recently completed an IRS audit, which reviewed his contracts with the organization and found no conflicts of interest.
- "America's Worst Charities—#1: Kids Wish Network". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
- "Kids Wish Network 2004 Article". Sptimes.com. 2004-12-05. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
- Ulber, Emily (2009-08-07). "Lexington boy honored after daring rescue | State". Kentucky.com. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
- "Northpinellas: Sick boy gets thrill from Bucs visit". Sptimes.com. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
- "Kids Wish Network Shelley Breiner Announces Brad Paisley Corvette Dream Giveaway". 2010-09-15. Retrieved 2015-09-30.
- "Ring Posts: John Cena grants wish for ailing Maryland boy - WWE Raw, Smackdown and TNA pro wrestling news, analysis from Kevin Eck - baltimoresun.com". Weblogs.baltimoresun.com. 2009-08-25. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
- Weller, Linda N. (2009-07-01). "Alton child's wish comes true - The Telegraph: Local News". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
- Wasserman, Scott (9 September 2013). "Mankato girl with spinal condition gets wish, meets Taylor Swift". Retrieved 20 September 2013.
- Dorland, Liz (23 August 2012). "Green Bay Packers Grant Nebraska Teens Wish". Retrieved 20 September 2013.
- "Kids Wish Network Expense Concerns". Charitynavigator.org. Retrieved 2013-07-03.