Student Legacy Inspires Charity

Most kids who are granted an wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, they often choose something for themselves—a new video game, a chance to meet a celebrity, or a trip to Disney World.

But Michael “Mikey” J. Friedman ’11 wanted to give his wish back.

Friedman, who passed away in October 2008 after battling a rare and aggressive form of cancer, used his $3,000 from Make-A-Wish to buy electronics and games to help other kids deal with the boredom and loneliness of hospital stays. After realizing the success of his charity, the then-16 year old created the Mikey’s Way Foundation, a non-profit that organizes a similar initiative for hospitals in New York, Connecticut, and Boston.

While Friedman’s foundation has held a few “Mikey’s Way Days” over the past two years to continue Friedman’s work, this spring Friedman’s parents are expanding Mikey’s Way to give the foundation a national presence.

Friedman’s choice to give back was not surprising to those who knew him. Friedman’s mother, Barbara Landau, said that her son was always aware that not all patients have access to the electronics and games that she said helped him survive the monotony of the hospital.


“There wasn’t anything he really wanted but to help the other kids,” Landau said.

Friedman modeled these visits—during which he would load thousands of dollars of electronics onto a cart and let patients choose their favorite—after the candy carts that would come around Friday evenings during his own hospital stays, Landau added.

The average gift, ranging from netbooks to handheld video game systems, costs around $300, according to Les G. Friedman, Mikey’s father and the CEO of Mikey’s Way. He added that the foundation also gives televisions and gaming systems to equip the hospitals’ permanent playrooms.

This year Mikey’s Way will serve eight hospitals, and each donation run will cost between $8,000 and $10,000 in private donations.

“Cancer research [and] all those foundations that deal with tomorrow are wonderful. But these kids are suffering today,” Les Friedman said. “My dream would be to do 52 Mikey’s Way Days a year.”

Over the past few months, the foundation has reached out to new donors and has filmed an ad with actress Jennifer Love Hewitt. One of the foundation’s first stops for networking has been at Harvard, with Friedman’s friends. Friedman’s former roommate Mark A. Isaacson ’11, a Crimson editorial columnist, said that he and other friends plan to work next fall to give Mikey’s Way a sustainable presence on the Harvard campus through creating a Harvard chapter of the foundation and possibly partnering with the Cancer Society.

Friedman, who is remembered as an optimist by his friends, did not talk much about Mikey’s Way or his own battle with cancer during his time at Harvard. Emily S. Shire ’11, a friend of Friedman’s and an inactive Crimson magazine editor, said that she did not know about his cancer until nearly the end of their freshman year.

“Mikey was just that calm, oh-so wonderful person. He played such an important role in the way our group works,” Shire said. “I’m completely unsurprised that he has touched so many lives.”

—Staff writer Stephanie B. Garlock can be reached at


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