Volunteering for the Make-A-Wish Foundation
It was September of my Senior year of high school. I had been assigned my first writing assignment of the year. I was to interview someone that I thought had done something significant and then write a paper about it. Most of my classmates interviewed family members that had been in the military, elderly people in our church, or even their parents. But I wanted to do something different. I was usually the kid who would turn around and do something outrageously big when assigned a project. I wanted to be original and didn't want to look like I was 'snowballing' my assignments… I'd sit through study halls trying to figure out someone I knew who had done something significant… but I was a sheltered kid. I went to private school at my church. The only people I knew were the people my classmates all knew… so no luck there.
I was laying in bed one night when the idea stuck me to interview the guy that sponsored Carissa's wish through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The majority of 'wishes' are sponsored through corporations. But the guy that sponsored Carissa's wish was unique. He organized a statewide run that took 10 days- and he pushed his 2 year old daughter in a stroller the whole way. His original goal was to sponsor a child's wish, which meant raising $4,000-$5,000 dollars. Before his run in July 1998, The Make A-Wish Foundation told him that he would be sponsoring 'Carissa's Wish'. A journalist for one of the local papers was going to be traveling him the whole 10 days, and every day there was an article in the paper about the mans run written by the journalist. By the end of his state wide run, he ended up raising about $22,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation- enough money to cover Carissa's Wish as well as wishes for 4 other children. During the 10 day run, he ran through Carissa's hometown and got to meet the little girl for the first time.
I knew what town the man was from and was able to contact him the next day. He agreed for me to interview him for my writing assignment. I talked to him for several hours. And turned in my writing assignment. The teacher gave me a 105% on my paper because of the amount of effort I put in it.
But even though my English assignment was over, my interest in the Make-A-Wish Foundation had just begun. A month later, in October 1998 I contacted the foundation. I told them I wanted to sponsor a child's wish too. They told me to come to the office to fill out paperwork for volunteering. When I went, they tried to enforce that sponsoring a child's wish take at least $4,000. I understood that. They told me I could raise money like other kids did to help fund a child's wish, but sponsors were usually big corporations. After hearing that, I was more determined to prove them wrong and sponsor a child's wish at age 17. So for the next few weeks I laid in bed every night scheming up ways to raise $5,000 that wouldn't take months or years to do.
I was your 'typical' high school kid. I was smart, but not the top of my class. I was just like most other teens, but when I had an idea in my head, there was nothing stopping me from accomplishing my goal. Not my teachers, not my parents… no one. I was often told I 'couldn't do things.' But the more I was told I was 'too young' or 'incapable' the more I wanted to prove that wrong. So sponsoring a child's wish was the one thing I was most determined to do.
My first fundraiser was on Halloween or '98. I had contacted the local Walmart, and asked permission to do 'face painting' in the store as a fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. They said it was okay. So I went out and bought some facepaints and 2 clown costumes- one for me and one for a friend who knew how to juggle and do magic tricks. I expected to raise maybe $50-$100 dollars that day. I was up til 4am the night before making posters. I put Pictures of Carissa during her Disney trip on it, and cut up Make-A-Wish Foundation Newsletters with other 'Wish Kids' as well. The theme I chose for the fundraiser was "Kids Helping Kids." By the end of the day I raised about just under $500. I was shocked. I didn't expect to raise so much. But as I volunteered, many people started coming up to me and just handing me $1 here and $5 there. I met other families who were helped by the Make A Wish Foundation too. It was a rewarding day.
Wal-Mart was shocked at the funds I raised. Most of the time when kids do fundraisers or stand collecting money for local scouts teams or sports teams they raise $50… not $500. But the lady at Wal-Mart told me I was welcome to come back any time. So I arranged to come back weekly for the next 3 weeks. Over the next 3 weeks I averaged $500-$800 a Saturday standing at the entrance collecting money in a can. I had info on the foundation as well to pass out to those who were interested.
The first weekend of December I rented a booth at a big craft fair and all the proceeds of my projects went to the Make A Wish Foundation. I raised another $500 that day between donations, and selling my crafts. (I had tons of random things I had made- ornaments, doll clothes, small quilts, etc). I had raised over $3,000 for the Make A Wish Foundation since October 31. By this point, my friends, family and the Make-A-Wish Foundation had stopped laughing at the fact that I was determined to sponsor a child's wish… I had raised over $3,000 in 5 weeks, I had less than $2,000 more to go before I reached my goal.
Since it was December, the Salvation Army had taken over my spot by the door at Wal-Mart, so I had to find a new location. Coming from a small town meant that there weren’t many options. Finally, Sam's Club agreed to let me fundraise there until my goal was met. So I spent my final 2 weeks of fundraising at Sam's Club. The weekend before Christmas I reached my goal. At age 17 I had raised $5,000 to sponsor a sick child's wish. I turned all the funds into the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Shortly after they told me that the money I raised was going to be used to send a 17-year old girl with lymphoma to Dawson's Creek as an extra on the show. And 6 months later I was presented with a huge plaque with a picture of the girl I sponsored and Dawson (James Van Der Beek). (the girl I sponsored did well with her treatment. She relapsed a year later but is currently still in remission and now volunteers for the 'Kids Helping Kids' program- overseeing young volunteers- at the Make-A-Wish foundation).
After that, I helped the Make-A-Wish Foundation with several other events and fundraisers. And the weekend after Carissa died I went back to the Wal-Mart I did my fundraisers at and helped start an annual craft fair in memory of Carissa for the Make A Wish Foundation. This fall will be the 5th annual craft fair, and the proceeds of the past 4 craft fairs has helped sponsor several children's wishes.
I babysat regularly in high school, and for the remainder of my senior year I saved all the money I earned babysitting and went and got tons of coloring books, small games, crayons and other activities and donated them to the Make-A-Wish Foundation to be used to stuff 'backpacks' for the kids as carry-on’s during flights for Disney Wishes as well as presents for some of the 'Wish Kids' that were in the hospital. One of the little girls I babysat for regularly during those months was later diagnosed with ALL (leukemia) and ended up going to Disney through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
I am currently looking into volunteering again for my local Make-A-Wish Foundation for fundraisers, writing articles for their newsletters and helping around the office. When I get out of the shelters and into my own place I want to become a 'Wish granter'- the person who makes the arrangements for a child's wish.
Volunteer Positions For the Make-A-Wish Foundation
Development and fund raising
Marketing, public relations, and advertising
Web site design
And much more
If you are interested in Volunteering for the Make-A-Wish Foundation visit http://www.wish.org to find a chapter near you.
Other ways of helping the Make-A-Wish Foundation include:
Donating your frequent flier miles for "wish trips"Tax-Deductible Donations
In-kind donations (contact your local chapter to see what is needed)
Wish art: drawn by 'wish kids'