Family Trip

If You Raised Money After a Fire, Can You Spend It on a Vacation?

Now, however, our son believes that our trip is not ethical. His opinion is that he did fine with chemotherapy and therefore does not need this gift to acknowledge his illness. He believes that the money and resources for his wish should be given to organizations working on children’s cancer or to some other deserving charity.

Our question is this: Is it ethical to accept this trip? As his parents, we think this trip is a fine way to honor the trial he went through to treat his cancer. It also serves as a way to acknowledge our whole family’s stress during his illness. Names Withheld

It speaks well of your child that he no longer thinks of himself as a patient and would rather help those who are still struggling. But even if you believe that a benefit you get doesn’t serve the aim of the institution that grants it, you may accept it if you are eligible under the rules. Social Security, for example, seeks to keep older people out of poverty but is set up as a universal benefit, not a means-tested one. So it’s fine to deposit your Social Security retirement checks whether or not you need them.

The Make-a-Wish Foundation’s mission statement indicates that the foundation has aims beyond supporting young people while they are dealing with critical illnesses: “Wishes impact everyone involved — wish kids, volunteers, donors, sponsors, medical professionals and communities.” Yes, recipients have to have been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, but as the foundation notes, many “will go on to live healthy lives.” As far as I can tell, accepting this gift is consistent with the foundation’s policies. But why not contact officials there and ask them what they think?

My bet is that they will agree with you; surely wishes aren’t whisked away when a cancer patient goes into remission. Yet accepting the vacation may still trouble your child’s conscience. And the focus here should be on him. Even if you think the trip is OK, you shouldn’t go unless he agrees.

Last year, my parents told me they were getting a divorce after over 25 years of marriage. My mother was filing; my dad still wanted to work things out. I, myself, had just married the month before, and my wife is close with my parents. Their divorce was devastating news for us both at a time that was supposed to be joyful.

My mother is, by nature, a private person. Aside from “It just didn’t work out” and “It was a mistake,” she offered few details.

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