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Every so often, a hero comes along to remind us that vigilant personal work and big dreams can have incredible results. From the Electric Forest family, hundreds reach out each year with hopes of achieving something miraculous. In their aspirations, we saw hope for the future and a chance to make small differences in the places where support, some love, and a little change are needed most. Leaders at Forest HQ got to talking about ways they could ally more with those who show up with such courage, and a short time later, the Wish Machine was born. The Wish Machine challenges The Forest Family to take action to turn their wish into reality. With it, several wishes are granted annually to inspire positive impacts to people and places all over the world, as well as back “home” at Electric Forest. To showcase and celebrate some of the most marvelous and dedicated among them, we’re sharing the most inspiring wishes, one-by-one, in a new series called Wish Machine Dreams.

Project Title: Generation Love and the Giving Tree by Ashley

It’s not exactly news that older generations and younger ones often don’t see eye-to-eye. But when Ashley heard about the way some of our elderly feel forgotten in an Illinois veterans home, she instinctively reached for the magic of art to transcend the divide. Through Generation Love, she asked Electric Forest to donate art supplies to the home and bring the medicine of art to all the people there. In addition to big smiles and a lot of fun, the end result was numerous pieces of art expressing gratitude, encouragement, and love to the younger generations attending Electric Forest. Most of the veterans were unable to make the journey, but Ashley delivered and exhibited the pieces at Electric Forest via the magnificent offering known as the Giving Tree.

What’s the origin of Generation Love? Where did it all begin?
The origin of my wish began as I was completing my community nursing clinical rotation at the Illinois Veterans Home. I got a chance to spend many days and speak with over 300 veterans who have served in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Many of them told me it was wonderful to have “young people” come visit them to share their day with and make it more enjoyable; however, those instances were not very often. Sadly, some of them even told me they felt forgotten by this new generation of kids. Many of them also told me their passion for art and being creative, and I got to see their faces light up each time we did an art project. One veteran would even spend all day making unique pictures with only a couple pens that he owned. After hearing the residents’ stories and seeing that there was a need for more art supplies, in order to bring joy to their day, I envisioned my wish and named it Generation Love.

I wanted to build a connection between these veterans who served and the younger generation (The Forest Family). I wanted to share with the veterans the love of The Forest. I asked The Forest family to donate art supplies to the veterans’ home, and the response was overwhelming! Hundreds of art supplies came in. I was even able to give that veteran, who spent his day making unique pictures, his very own complete art kit! I then held art therapy sessions at the veterans’ home, in which they made gifts for the Giving Tree. They had a blast and were so excited to have their art shown and to be a part of something big. I then took those gifts to The Forest and showed The Forest Family that the older veterans care about them, and now the veterans know they are still cared about, as well. Electric Forest brought these two generations together, and love was felt all around. Generation Love!

Why did you bring your wish to Electric Forest? What was your goal?
I brought this to Electric Forest because I knew this was a very loving and caring community. My goal was to connect two very different generations. I wanted to show the veterans they were not forgotten, and I wanted to show our younger generation that they also matter. My goal was to build that bridge of love.

How did the Wish Machine inspire you beyond The Forest?
The whole experience of the Wish Machine helped me inspire others to create change in the world, as I continue my own journey to do the same. It made me realize there are others with generous souls who also wish to create change in the community. Numerous Forest Family members and community members have reached out to me, wanting to get involved. I have encouraged them to volunteer in their community or at their local veterans’ homes, donate art or music to those veterans, or just spend time with someone who would appreciate the company. I continue to stay involved in my community, spreading the message that art, music, and love can bring people from all walks of life together. The Wish Machine has inspired me to reach out to a new person each day, knowing that together, we can all work to better each others’ beautiful worlds.

How did The Forest help support you?
On the surface, The Forest supported me by giving me the physical resources I needed to accomplish my goal—such as the mailbox, in which I accepted hundreds of art donations from across the country. Also, the setup at the Giving Tree, to display the art made by the veterans. Yet, on a much deeper level, The Forest gave me a voice. They provided me with a platform to express my dream with the rest of the world. I was able to inspire change and make some kind of impact, thanks to that support. That is a rare gift of its own.

What was your favorite part of the Wish Machine program?
The rewarding feeling of bringing joy, love, and light to the veterans and the responses of love, encouragement, and support felt from The Forest Family.

What unexpected challenges did you face?
At first, I thought I would receive no donations for art supplies. That worried me deeply. However, I kept hope and faith that people would see the value in my wish, and soon hundreds of donations came in!

How did folks respond to Generation Love?
It was an overwhelming response of love and support—so many people willing to donate and still willing to donate. Many of The Forest Family to this day want to be involved with this project and help, [and] so much happiness and gratitude has come from the veterans’ home!

What does the Wish Machine mean to you?
The Wish Machine means hope. Generosity, caring, compassion, and community are not wasted on this generation. People want to see positive change. With change comes hope—hope for a more loving world. The Wish Machine gave me a voice for my dream, which gives others hope in their own dreams. It lets people know that their small steps to make an impact do not go unnoticed, and each little step DOES MATTER. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” I believe the Wish Machine allows us all to do just that.

What advice would you share with someone pondering their own wish?
Always keep your wish in front of you and dare to dream BIG dreams! If you stay passionate about your wish, others will follow with enthusiasm.

Learn more about Generation Love and the Giving Tree and how to submit your own Wish to the Wish Machine.

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