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Employee Spotlight – Make A Wish

December 26, 2011

Joining re-energized me. I love my work and the opportunity to be a part of a young organization, where I can develop partner relationships with a great team. I feel genuinely blessed to wake up every day and do something I love. And I’m also fortunate to say it’s been that way for me for the last 15 years.  But about 11 years ago, although happy with my family and my job, and with a baby on the way…there was still something missing. I needed something selfless – deeper– that would enrich my life beyond the boundaries with which I was so familiar.

LisaKerr Charity copySo began my search for a place where I could help make a difference. I wanted to be invested in a new way, in something that would require more than writing a check (still a good thing, but a different category of giving). I wanted to connect with a new cause in a meaningful way and be vulnerable to someone else’s needs, issues, pain points – and ultimately, be a part of a solution to help.

I am forever grateful to have talked this through with my best friend. She had just become a volunteer for an organization called Make-A-Wish (MAW) and encouraged me to check it out. MAW grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions, in hope to enrich the child’s experience with hope, strength and joy. So while these kids are often fighting for their lives, they are not destined to lose their lives. In fact, many win!

Winning is a battle though. It often requires tough, long, painful, and exhausting combats that do not just require the child’s will, but the family must also become warriors in the battles that ensue. Families often struggle with devastating medical and financial expenses — time off of work to care for their sick child, job loss, even divorce — so many stresses to cope with while remaining strong for their child.

I was moved by what I learned, and joined Make-A-Wish as a “Wish Grantor” volunteer. Wish Grantors learn about the family and child’s situation, and then coordinate a meeting with the family to learn what is the child’s heartfelt wish. Then we find fun, creative and innovative ways to work with the Wish Chapter to make that child’s dream come true in the most amazing and unforgettable way possible. In the eye of the family, a Wish Grantor can be a beacon of light in a raging storm of challenges. The impact of a Wish amid the storm is powerful – it means a respite in battle; an escape, a time when the child and family can set aside stress and illness and lose themselves in something magical…the child’s wish.

What do kids wish for? Although the most common are “Disney” wishes, there is a range of other amazing wishes, for example:

• I wish to be CEO of General Motors.
• I wish to play golf with Chi Chi Rodriguez.
• I wish to go to a NY Yankees game, sit in the dugout and meet the players.
• I wish to have a bass fishing boat, or another was a John Deere tractor.
• I wish to get braces.
• I wish to meet the “Cake Boss.”

What I’ve learned most about is human resilience. I’ve also learned that being a good Wish Grantor means not being judgmental — showing compassion and empathy in the face of the stress the family faces, and to let the child and their Wish shine. As gratifying as I have found this volunteer work to be, I also recognize it fosters enormous leadership skills.

You might be wondering – do you ever fall apart? Well, not in front of the family…but I can tell you that more than once I’ve left a family meeting, got into my car, and bawled. There are moments I have immediately called my husband, my daughter/sons, or mom, to tell them how much I love and cherish them.  Ah, another gift… I am keenly reminded of the importance of living in the moment.

There are many ways to become involved. MAW also needs interpreters, speakers, professional services, office help, event assistants, and more! Volunteering is empowering – it is deeply rewarding to be of service to others. If you think you might be interested, I encourage you to check out your local MAW chapter: 

Make-A-Wish Foundation® of Greater Bay Area
Serves the San Francisco Bay Area + upper NW and coastline
Web site:
Phone: (415) 982-9474

Finally, on a closing note, there is no better way to share a Wish than to share an actual Wish story! See Brittany’s amazing story — I hope you are inspired. 


Lisa Kerr

Follow Lisa on Twitter: @lisa_kerr03

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