Danielle Gletow: Brightening the Lives of Foster Kids

Danielle Gletow created One Simple Wish to bring joy to America’s invisible children and to show them that "there's somebody out there who cares."

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Danielle Gletow – Founder – One Simple Wish – Trenton, New Jersey

SOT: Good afternoon.
-Hi, how are you? Welcome to One Simple Wish. Can I get, uh, your name?
-My name is Robin.
-Thank you.
-Hi Robin. Hi, sweet potato!

DANIELLE: Foster care is almost never talked about and when it is it’s negative.

SOT: Come here, sweetheart. I can take her for you. Oh no, it’s okay, baby girl.

DANIELLE: We’re saying, “You know what? You’re right. There’s a lot that’s broken. There’s a lot we need to fix so join us in doing something positive and we will show you the way to do even more.”

CARD: Danielle Gletow – Founder – One Simple Wish – Trenton, N.J., USA

SOT: This is a thank you note from Child help to our team from their team for Halloween.

DANIELLE: One Simple Wish empowers everybody to brighten the lives of children in foster care in simple and meaningful ways.

SOT: “You give our kids something to look forward to. Thank you.”

DANIELLE: We have a registry of wishes that these children are asking for. And it really isn’t stuff. The wishes represent so much more to these children. These wishes represent the idea that there is somebody out there that cares.

CARD: Danielle grew up in New Jersey, the middle child of three sisters.

DANIELLE: I had a lot of issues, um, growing up myself. My parents got divorced when I was 13 years old and we actually lived with my father. I struggled a lot with depression, anxiety, was briefly hospitalized when I was in my early teens. The more I learn about the children that are going through foster care it reminds me a lot of my own childhood and it reminds me that I’m actually really lucky because despite all that moving around I did know my parents loved me.

CARD: Danielle was a gifted student, but she wasn’t interested in school.
She dropped out of college after the first year.
Around that time, she started dating Joe Gletow.

DANIELLE: He’s the most stable, grounded, content, confident. I think having Joe in my life just really helped me be a better person.

CARD: Danielle started a career in corporate PR.
She and Joe married in 2005.

DANIELLE: Very soon after we got married we started talking about having a family. I mentioned to him, you know, pretty early on that I wanted to adopt and I didn’t want to be pregnant. And so I told him, you know, “Why don’t we look into becoming foster parents?” with the goal of adopting.

CARD: Danielle and Joe applied to become foster parents.
In 2006, they had just completed certification when they got a call to take José.

CARD: After 3 months, José was returned to his family. Then came Antonio.

DANIELLE: He was two years old and he came from a very neglectful environment and we thought we were gonna be able to adopt him. Um, it was actually one of the most devastating things I’ve had to deal with in my entire life was saying goodbye to him.

CARD: Danielle and Joe were crushed.
They decided to have a baby themselves.
But a few months later, they were asked to take Mia, a newborn who was available for adoption. The couple couldn’t refuse.
And then Danielle discovered she was pregnant with Liliana.

DANIELLE: We said, “We’re gonna close our home for now. We wanna focus on raising Mia and, and raising Liliana.” But I knew there were 400,000 foster children in the U.S. and this was what I was supposed to do, I was supposed to help kids in foster care.

CARD: Danielle and Joe invested $10,000 to build a website that is the heart of One Simple Wish. The site launched in 2008. Danielle left her marketing job to work full time building the organization.

DANIELLE: The way it works is an agency representing a child in foster care, they log into their account and they create a wish on behalf of that child. Once that comes into our system every wish is manually checked. Once it’s live on the site then anybody can see it. They just simply click on a button that says, “Grant this wish,” they donate the amount of money towards that wish, and then our wish granters purchase that item and online and they send that item directly to the case worker to deliver to the child.

CARD: For 4 years, One Simple Wish grew slowly.

SOT: Now for our making a difference report. Tonight’s story is about…

CARD: But in December 2012, a reporter read about the organization and profiled it on the NBC Nightly News.

DANIELLE: That was really the turning point for us. That night that it aired I think we did like 40 or $50,000 in wishes. And then in the month that followed $250,000-plus dollars and wishes. And we were just like, “Oh my God. What are we gonna do?” So we quickly ramped up. It was, we had a very quick trajectory.

CARD: One Simple Wish has fulfilled more than 16,000 wishes. Children ask for everything from movie tickets to braces to skateboards.

DANIELLE: We do wanna grow. We’ve, we’ve been around $1,000,000 for a couple years and we’re, we’re ready for the next step.

CARD: One Simple Wish has three employees and a team of part-timers and consultants.

SOT: Oh these are great, and long sleeves perfect.

CARD: They work with 800 child welfare agencies in 49 states.

DANIELLE: I want us to be a household name. I want One Simple Wish to be, you know, up there with Make-A-Wish Foundation and, I wanna see Super Bowl ads about One Simple Wish some day. And then I wanna see the website run out of wishes.

Posted: February 28, 2017

Nusha Balyan at The Story ExchangeDanielle Gletow: Brightening the Lives of Foster Kids