Chemotherapy made Natalia Marsh-Welton feel cold, so when the Make-A-Wish Foundation granted the girl a wish, her goal was warmth. Not her own, though. Natalia wanted to make homeless people feel warm by giving them soup. And blankets.
Natalia’s soup-and-blankets project was so outstanding that it received the Infinite Wish Award in 2014 from the national Make-A-Wish Foundation, selected from more than 13,000 wishes granted each year. Program manager Kate Donnellon Berliner, a 2003 Xavier graduate in organizational communications, worked on the project with Natalia. They completed it in February, and the award was announced in October—one month before Natalia died, shortly after turning 11.
Natalia’s first wish was to be cured of her brain tumor. When she learned that wasn’t possible, she settled on her love of cooking to make others’ lives better. Berliner helped arrange for Natalia to meet with well-known Cincinnati chef Jean-Robert de Cavel in January, and he helped her create a minestrone soup with a kick of cayenne. Three weeks later, she fed the soup to 200 people at the Drop Inn Center and gave out 500 blankets.
The soup is still served monthly at the shelter, and people now share the recipe using the Twitter hashtag #nataliaswish. You can get the recipe online. “We’ve had people making the soup from as far away as South Africa,” Berliner says.
Berliner learned of the foundation when her younger brother, Andrew, who has a heart condition, was granted a wish to go to Disney World. He’s now the kicker for the football team at Bluffton University. “I love being able to hear stories about how a wish can change a situation that seems hopeless.”