Wish Upon a Star: Giving back, giving hope

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The program has been making children – especially cancer survivors – happy for two decades.

Regina Invento-Reyes, project director of Rotary Club’s Wish Upon a Star, recounts the changes her life underwent because of the opportunity to give back to others.
Regina Invento-Reyes, project director of Rotary Club’s Wish Upon a Star, recounts the changes her life underwent because of the opportunity to give back to others.

For Regina Invento-Reyes, project director of Wish Upon a Star of the Rotary Club Bacolod, the opportunity to serve others – especially the have-nots – is indeed a welcome one. 

Under the tree. Rotary Club officers and members pose with some of the beneficiaries of the Wish Upon a Star project of the civic organization in partnership with Robinsons Mall.
Under the tree. Rotary Club officers and members pose with some of the beneficiaries of the Wish Upon a Star project of the civic organization in partnership with Robinsons Mall. | Photo courtesy of Rotary Club through Regina Invento Reyes

A graduate of one of the premiere universities in the city, Regina’s lifestyle could be considered one that is relatively more comfortable than average.  Thus, she experienced a bit of a culture shock when the kids – most of whom have not stepped in buildings in highly-urbanized cities – derived the simplest of joys from something as mundane as a bottle of Coke.

Yes. A bottle of coke.

Regina recounts to DNX how one of the kids from an upland barangay, when asked for a “wish”, simply asked for one thing and one thing alone: a bottle of Coke.

Rotary Club members, led by president Frederick Anthony de Leon (second from left) get ready to distribute gifts to beneficiaries.
Rotary Club members, led by president Frederick Anthony de Leon (second from left) get ready to distribute gifts to beneficiaries. | Photo courtesy of Rotary Club through Regina Invento Reyes

“For that kid, happiness is being able to taste Coke; and I was shocked at how simple the wish was, how simple the source of happiness is,” she says.

In the end, of course, the kid received not just a bottle of Coke but a case-full of it.

Those were just some of the experiences Regina holds dear as project director of Rotary Club of Bacolod’s Wish Upon a Star, a gift-giving and outreach program for children in upland barangays, and for cancer survivors and warriors.  Regina, in her Facebook page, also acknowledges the support of Rotary president Frederick Anthony de Leon and one of the project’s point persons, Joan Lilybeth Jaboneta-Agsam.

Children wait for the gift-giving at the fountain area of the Robinsons Mall.
Children wait for the gift-giving at the fountain area of the Robinsons Mall. | Photo courtesy of Rotary Club through Regina Invento Reyes

An annual gift-giving event by Robinsons Mall in partnership with the civic organization, the event gathers beneficiaries from Negros Occidental, with special attention given to members of indigenous peoples, the poor, and children living with cancer.

Rotary Club member and actor John Arceo entertains the crowd during the gift-giving program held last December at the Robinsons Mall.
Rotary Club member and actor John Arceo entertains the crowd during the gift-giving program held last December at the Robinsons Mall. | Photo courtesy of Rotary Club through Regina Invento Reyes

And no, Virginia. It’s not just Coke.  The gifts are as varied as they come: toys, food packs, grocery items, even at one point, a carabao.  Anything and everything that could bring happiness, a respite from hunger, even a possible source of income.

Why serve?

“It gives a lot of meaning to my life,” Regina says, “Seeing these children struggle and hearing their stories is really very fulfilling. I would recommend it to anyone.”

A beneficiary beams as he carries off his gift during the annual gift-giving of Rotary Club in partnership with Robinsons Malls.
A beneficiary beams as he carries off his gift during the annual gift-giving of Rotary Club in partnership with Robinsons Malls. | Photo courtesy of Rotary Club through Regina Invento Reyes

She also has a new-found appreciation for life, and for people around her, especially her little man, a spirited young boy that she and husband Rulo dote on.

“I just imagine my little boy and how it would be like losing him to cancer – and I just cannot hack it,” she reveals.

Vice Mayor El Cid Familiaran interacts with one of the beneficiaries during the short program hosted by actor John Arceo.
Vice Mayor El Cid Familiaran interacts with one of the beneficiaries during the short program hosted by actor John Arceo. | Photo courtesy of Rotary Club through Regina Invento Reyes

She openly admires kids who are undergoing a life with cancer, especially those who cannot afford treatment, who must be undergoing not just physical pain but the emotional burden of the truth that the inevitable could come at any time.

 “I cannot imagine how they would feel, how they would be able to grasp the concept of death at such a young age,” she says.

These realizations – plus the pleasure of giving back, of sharing, of putting smiles on young children’s faces – is more than enough reward in itself.

“I just want to thank Rotary Club for giving me this opportunity, this platform to serve others.  It is an experience that could never be matched,” she adds.

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