FIU Business Class Grants Child’s Make-A-Wish Dream

Lorenzo smiling in front of family photos. Photo Courtesy of Erin Briede.

Yansall Rasquides / Staff Writer 

Lorenzo, a local seven-year-old battling cancer, was granted his greatest wish by an FIU business class this Summer.

Every semester since 2011, Donald Roomes, an FIU business professor, conducts a class on business and community leadership, which implements organizational management and public service.

“I found that every year since [implementing service learning], that same pattern of students do not drop the course because they unite around a cause,” said Roomes. “Seeing that it keeps students together, motivates them, and you’ve got that learning happening, learning happens easier.”

Lorenzo has acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a fast-growing cancer which causes immature white blood cells, or lymphocytes, to form, according to the American Cancer Society.

Lorenzo’s last name cannot be disclosed due to HIPPA, a federal law which restricts private medical information.

Screenshot of FIU professor Donald Roomes’ business class over Zoom. Photo courtesy of Sophia Bittencourt. 

The class raised $9,675 to fund Lorenzo’s dream vacation at Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii, through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

However, travel delays and resort restrictions during the pandemic challenged the class’ efforts. This included a limited capacity, amenities, closures, COVID-19 testing and mandated quarantine, according to the hotel website.

Screenshot of Aulani Resort COVID-19 advisory on August 17, 2021. Jesse Fraga / PantherNOW.

Roomes expected remote classes would be a challenge of its own, due to a lack of involvement and interaction between students and professors.

The turnout was quite the opposite.

“I knew going in that if I have a project of this nature where guest speakers come in to talk about it, the momentum and [student] interaction is there,” said Roomes. “This project was the strategy to help with creating that motivation in the past.”

He split the class into groups, each with a fundraising goal of $500. The groups organized a socially distanced car wash and donut sales, for example.

Professor Roomes poses with class group leaders. Photo Courtesy of Sophia Bittencourt.

Sophia Bittencourt, a junior majoring in international business described the moment the class reached the initial goal of $5,000.

“The class cheered for probably a minute or two and then said, ‘Alrighty back to work,’ because not everyone had reached their group’s goal of $500 yet, and those who had did not want to stop,” said Bittencourt. “The fear of letting Lorenzo down was gone, it just became pure excitement and joy that drove us.” 

Bittencourt described what motivated the project.

“Knowing who we were doing this for was our foundation, having a face to the project, a kid relying on us, who knows who we are, that’s the motivation,” said Bittencourt. “Slowing down and letting up was not an option.”

Erin Briede, a wish granter for Make-A-Wish, described what it was like to help the class reach their goal.

“It was definitely one of the highlights for me in 2020. I love doing these presentations every time I leave,” said Briede. “I’m always on such a high because the engagement is always great, but this was to another level and was also unique due to it being remote.”

She attributed the proceeds to the students’ active participation.

“I was hoping for the $5,000, and then we just missed the $10,000 mark, but we might as well say we raised it out for two wishes, they were so close,” said Briede.

Lorenzo smiling while giving a thumbs up. Photo courtesy of Sophia Bittencourt. 

Lorenzo and his mother thanked the class for their initiatives in a Zoom call during the end of the semester. Donations for Lorenzo’s wish are still being accepted.

“I found that even in a pandemic, it doesn’t change the hunger there is to do good, that’s a very, very first personal lesson that I took from it,” said Roomes.

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