“Our Dancing Lights” Helps Michigan Kids


Each Holiday season since 2000, Brent Waldrep and his family have been hanging thousands of lights to create “Our Dancing Lights,” a masterpiece of light and sound located in Auburn Hills.

This year, Our Dancing Lights raised over $9,100 for The Rainbow Connection! This was their biggest year yet, raising enough money to sponsor almost two full wishes!

Over the past seven years, Our Dancing Lights has raised over $30,000 for The Rainbow Connection (TRC), a Michigan based charity that grants wishes to Michigan children with life threatening medical conditions. Since 1985, TRC has granted over 3,300 wishes including 173 in 2017. Visitors are invited to place a donation in the drop box at Our Dancing Lights if they choose.

To find out more about The Rainbow Connection visit www.rainbowconnection.org and to find out more about Our Dancing Lights show visit www.ourdancinglights.com


TRC Receives Sixth Consecutive 4-Star Rating from Charity Navigator

Austin hitting I'm In sign

Charity Navigator, the largest independent charity evaluator has named The Rainbow Connection (TRC) as a top-rated charity once again for 2017.  TRC’s fiscal management practices and commitment to accountability and transparency have earned it the highest award, a 4-star rating for the sixth consecutive year, an honor only 6% of all charities rated achieve.

After Charity Navigator’s review, TRC earned 91.23 points out of 100 overall; 87.61 for financial management and 100 for accountability and transparency. As the non-profit marketplace becomes more competitive, there is an increased demand from donors for greater accountability and quantifiable results from the charities they choose to support.

With requests for wishes increasing more than 37% over the past two years and granting a record 172 wishes in 2017, the generous support donors provide TRC is invaluable. 86% of every dollar goes toward wish program expenses and in 2018, ensuring that these dollars continue to be allocated in a responsible way is of the utmost importance to TRC staff and Board of Directors.


I Wished, I Hoped, I Accomplished

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22 year old Daryl is a student of Oakland University. His goal is to give back just like his community gave to him during his time of need.

At age eight, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor the size of a golf ball and was immediately admitted to Children’s Hospital of Michigan.  I quickly learned that a family filled with fear is nothing compared to a family filled with hope.

In the midst of my diagnosis, I received a wish that would bring happiness to me and my family during our time of need. My wish was to go to Disney World and have fun like everyone else. Thanks to Rainbow Connection my wish became a reality.  In 2003, I remember being out of the hospital and only having to go back for chemotherapy once a week. One week was different as instead of going to chemo I was going to Disney! A limousine pulled up in front of my house and picked up my family and I to take us to the airport.  Once we arrived there was a driver with a sign that said, “Give Kids the World Village Welcomes Daryl”.

I am now a senior at Oakland University (OU) and have always hoped to give back in the best way possible.  I’m now a volunteer with The Rainbow Connection and for the last 3 years I have traveled to Florida during spring break to volunteer at Give Kids The World (GKTW).  Last February, I lead a group of fifteen students from OU on a trip to GKTW for a week-long volunteer trip. I am looking forward to being a site leader again this February!

Having cancer helped me find my purpose to give back to those around me.  A goal of mine is to have my own non-profit that can help families in need and show them that it will be okay.  Two years of leading students to GKTW is just the beginning and I plan to make this a tradition.  Graduating from Oakland University in April, I’m looking forward to what my next chapter in life has in store.

Our Dancing Lights, Auburn Hills

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The Rainbow Connection needs volunteers for 

“Our Dancing Lights” in Auburn Hills!


Kick off the holiday season with family, coworkers or friends and help greet visitors and monitor traffic flow at this

award winning holiday light show in Auburn Hills, featuring more than 60,000 lights choreographed to holiday music. 

3111 Paramount Lane (near Tienken and Squirrel) 


Volunteers needed FRIDAY and SATURDAY 

6pm-8pm or 8pm-10pm

        • December 1 and 2
        • December 8 and 9
        • December 15 and 16

Volunteers needed THURSDAY-SUNDAY (Dec. 21-24)

      • December 21 6pm – 8pm or 8pm-10pm
      • December 22 6pm – 8pm or 8pm-11pm
      • December 23 6pm – 8pm or 8pm-11pm
      • December 24 6pm – 8pm or 8pm-11pm
    • please email kjohnson@rainbowconnection.org  if you are intersted in volunteering. Please include time and date(s) that you are available.

9 Things You Might Not Know About The Rainbow Connection

Zac and Mickey

The Rainbow Connection (TRC) has been making dreams come true for Michigan children with life threatening illnesses since 1985.

Check out these 9 facts you might not know about TRC and the magic of making a dream come true.


 1.) It’s more than a wish. In addition to making dreams come true, TRC provides an umbrella of support services for all families served. People forget that when a child becomes seriously ill, life is suddenly turned upside down for all family members. The Special Response and Enhancement Program provide families with support and fun activities as they continue to experience hardships. College Scholarships are available for wish kids who go to college too!

2.) We grant wishes throughout the state of Michigan. TRC provides services to children throughout the 83 counties in the state of Michigan. In 2016, 39% of wishes were granted for Wayne County children, but wish families come from Traverse City, Marquette and cities all over Michigan

3.) The Rainbow Connection does not make a child wait. When the child is ready for their wish and their physician has given their approval, TRC is ready to make it happen. Our Wish Coordinators work hard to maintain the quality of care and service while we maintain our no wait policy

4.Wish Kids receive surprise Happy Packs in the mail! Whether a child is going through a tough time in treatment, or just needs a pick me up, TRC sends a Happy Pack in the mail to cheer the child up. The surprise packages include coloring books, nail polish, card games and more!

5.) The first wish was to meet Muhammed Ali on July 24th, 1985. 16 year old John Bowden wished to meet heavy weight champion Muhammed Ali. He came to visit John at Children’s Hospital in Detroit and while the visit was set up specifically to meet John, Ali stayed to visit many sick kids throughout the hospital. The gesture by Ali brought joy to John during a difficult time and the impact remains with his family to this day.

6.) Wish Kids love to give back to other Wish Kids. Many of our wish kids raise funds to support other wish families. 11 year old wish child Natalie, created Team Natalie Go Fight Win, a team dedicated to Walk for Kids and raising money for The Rainbow Connection. In 2017, her team raised $10,000 to make dreams come true.

7.) We grant all kinds of wishes! Since 1985, over 3,309 wishes have been granted to Michigan children. In 2016, we granted 79 trips to Disney World, 31 shopping sprees and 6 meet and greets with celebrities just to name a few.

8.) When a wish is received, the wish child and their family are joining The Rainbow Connection Family for life! With our Holiday Party, Summer Picnic and year round Enhancements, we love to visit with wish families throughout the year. 14 year old Autumn, received her wish to meet Kenny Chesney in 2009. 8 years later, Autumn and family still attend TRC events and share the impact of her wish

9.) Hundreds of TRC supporters and volunteers make wish granting possible. The average cost of a family’s wish is $6,500. We have over 600 volunteers that work throughout the year in the office and at fundraising events. Community groups, corporations and schools put on benefits to raise funds for Michigan children. With wish referrals increasing by 34% over the past three years, this support is crucial to continuing our mission of making dreams come true.

Follow us on Facebook for even more wish stories at www.facebook.com/rainbowconnectionmichigan. For more information on events and volunteer opportunities visit www.rainbowconnection.org


Justin’s Wish makes a “Giant” Impact

Make a wish

Wish Child Justin reflects on his wish to meet the San Francisco Giants and his journey since his diagnosis.

 Each summer, my family and I take a trip to a different baseball stadium. So when I was approached by the social worker at my clinic and she said The Rainbow Connection would grant my wish, I immediately thought of the team whose hat is on my head 100% of the time: the San Francisco Giants.

Getting to meet the San Francisco Giants was a once in a lifetime experience and a memory that I will never forget. The whole trip was so exciting just to be out in California and see all the sights there. Not only did I get to do and see amazing things around the city such as the Golden Gate bridge, Alcatraz, and a cable car ride, but I got to see two different ballparks when we went to an Oakland A’s game in addition to a Giants game. The Giants organization gave me a tour of the stadium, let me stand on the field for batting practice, and gave me an opportunity to meet and spend time with four Giants players which was the best part of the whole trip! It was a very pleasant surprise that all the players mentioned they were expecting me and held conversations with my family and I before the game.

I cannot thank The Rainbow Connection and Giants organization enough for sending me out to California which lead to me spending an amazing week with my family. I was surprised by how even the smallest detail was taken into account and I am forever grateful for The Rainbow Connection and those individuals that planned this amazing trip for me.

Cancer makes you appreciate the small things. The small encounters with friends, the thought and time people put into things, and people going out of their way to do something nice for you. Before my diagnosis, I valued things a lot differently. I was more materialistic and always wanted what was in style regardless of if it was useful.

Now, I appreciate the small things that I hadn’t even noticed before this journey. There was a day where my family surprised me with t-shirts reading “Spartan Strong” on the front and “Justin Strong” on the back. The amount of hope I felt as my whole family came into my hospital room wearing those shirts and chanting my name was unreal. Almost everyone associates cancer with darkness. However, if there is one thing that my journey with cancer has taught me, it’s that sometimes the worst case scenario can actually bring out the best in life.

Rainbow Connection Awarded 2016 Charity Navigator Award

To view the 2016 Award click on the link below.

Charity Navigator Award LTR 2016

Boxing great Muhammad Ali’s visit to local teenager marked beginning of wishes for Michigan kids

Muhammad Ali reading to child

June 2016

Rochester, Mich. (WXYZ) – Funeral services for boxing great Muhammad Ali are set for this week in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky but the former heavyweight champion also had strong ties to the state of Michigan.

Ali lived in Berrien Springs in southwest Michigan for nearly two decades. He also had a historical tie to the Rainbow Connection, a Rochester-based non-profit that grants wishes to Michigan children with life-threatening illnesses.

On July 26, 1985, Ali made a special visit to 16-year old John Bowden at Children’s Hospital in Detroit.

“Muhammad Ali made the very first wish come true for the Rainbow Connection,” said Mary Grace McCarter, the organization’s executive director.  “You can’t get anymore significant than that.”

While the former boxing champion’s visit was set up specifically for John, it did not surprise McCarter that Ali spent time with other children receiving treatment on the floor that day.

“He really showed the magic of making a dream come true,” said McCarter of Ali’s visit.  “Not just that day for John Bowden but for us to know to keep forging ahead, that making a dream come true for a child who’s so sick is a deal changer for everybody.”

Since that very first wish, Rainbow Connection has granted 3,113 others, including 162 in 2015. The wish board in the Rainbow Connection office displays photos of dozens of other children who will see their dream come true in the months ahead.

“Kids wish to go somewhere or to get something or to meet someone, like Muhammad Ali, to meet someone famous that they would never, ever otherwise meet,” she said.

The gesture by Ali brought some joy to the 16-year old during a most difficult time. John died a few days later but the memory of the visit and its impact on the teen remains with his family members to this day.

Wish Come True: Meet the youngest Michigan State Police Trooper



July 2016

DIMONDALE, Mich (WLNS) – It’s not just a good day for 5-year-old Aidyn Sharrow.

It’s a life-changing day.

The little guy is the newest honorary Michigan State Police trooper and it’s all thanks to The Rainbow Connection.

Aidyn is currently fighting leukemia and it was his wish to join the men and women in blue.

Aidyn and his family are spending the whole day with troopers, getting to see the canine units up close in action and even riding in a MSP helicopter.

For troopers involved in Aidyn’s special day it’s means the world to see a smile on his face.

“Here’s an opportunity for us to bring some happiness to a young man’s life and to his family and to let the public know that their Michigan State Police are out to protect them and to serve them with a true purpose,” said MSP First Lt. Troy Allen.

The “Rainbow Connection”, which granted Aidyn’s wish, helps make dreams come true for Michigan children dealing with life-threatening conditions.

Celebration of Dreams 2016