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Make-A-Wish OregonMake-A-Wish Oregon

Volunteer Spotlight

Nothing is as strong as the heart of a volunteer. Wishes come true because of caring actions. These committed volunteers connect with wish children, awaken their imaginations and help them envision an experience with the power to change lives. They create unforgettable experiences driven by a child’s creativity and strive to personalize each wish. These incredible people inspire us every day.




Louise and Dana

Louise and Dana were both elementary school teachers for over 30 years and love working with children. The two are good friends, and decided they wanted to continue making a difference, by volunteering for Make-A-Wish Oregon. Since then, they've granted 26 local wishes together, which is incredible. We appreciate their continued determination to make a lasting impact on the lives of local children.

Louise and Dana
"Each wish is unique but what is common for all children is the joy and glow on their face when they receive their wish.  For us, seeing that joy is so rewarding and fills our hearts with happiness and gratitude to the Make-A-Wish staff that makes this happen. When we finish a wish we are always filled with amazement at the determination and resilience of each wish child and humbled by their character, courage, and spirit. The relationships and bonds we form with these children and their families are so very special. Dana and I feel truly blessed and proud to be a part of this incredible organization," said Louise.

Our advice to other wish granters is that while it is important to listen carefully to and include all family members in early conversations about the wish, special interests, etc.; remember that this is the child’s wish and not the family’s.  Make sure that the wish is what the child wants, and it is not overly influenced by what other family members want. 
Second, is to mention in the first meeting that the child’s wish will not cost the family anything. Some families may be concerned that the wish will place a financial burden on the family," said Louise. 


Dixie Amos

After retiring, Dixie was searching for something productive and satisfying to do with some of her free time. She happened to read a newspaper article about a public figure and her lifestyle, who mentioned one of the activities that was most fulfilling for her, was volunteering for Make-A-Wish. After learning more about our work and volunteer program, Dixie was hooked: "11 years later, I am even more enthused!" We appreciate Dixie for all that she does to support our wish kids.

Dixie














"After volunteering, I feel very satisfied that I have made some small contribution to a child’s well being.  Bringing joy and diversion to a wish family and giving a sick child something to look forward to is incredibly satisfying. I wish that children didn’t have to endure the illnesses and conditions that create a need for Make-A-Wish.  But until that happens, I’m convinced the work and the mission of Make A Wish is truly magical!"

"My advice for other wish granters is to communicate!  It’s something I’m still working on improving for myself.  Not just communication with the wish family, but also communication with your wish partner, especially if you’re the lead wish granter."


Dan Dhruva

Dan is one of our amazing volunteers who also serves on our Board of Directors. He got involved with Make-A-Wish Oregon after witnessing the impact of a wish come true. From then on, Dan knew he wanted to help out however he could. This year, that involved participating in our 1st Annual Trailblaze Challenge. Dan hiked 25.8 miles through Silver Falls State Park in one day, to support local life-changing wishes and we are so grateful for all that he does to support our mission!

Dan




"After volunteering, I feel appreciative for what I have, and empathetic for those that face such incredible hardships.  I am inspired by the grace and fortitude that each wish family shows."

"To be honest, I haven’t done any of the real 'work' when it comes to wish granting.  We have a fantastic team, and most of the wishes I have participated in were to attend and lend support.  I would say just being there and having a smile goes farther than you might think."


Rob Cruser

Rob Cruser began volunteering in 2001, and fell in love with the work immediately. Since then, Rob has helped us fulfill countless wishes across our region, and we are so grateful for his continued, unwavering support. His advice for other wish granters:
"Sick kids get treated like sick kids every day, so try to talk to them like you would a healthy kid. Kids and families can get pretty beaten down by the burdens they live with, sometimes stretching out for years, so going in with an upbeat, positive vibe can do wonders. Of course, you've got to read situations and use good judgment, but remember you're there to provide magic, so be magical and fun!"

Rob Cruser


"I love working with kids and had developed good emotional coping skills from many years as a firefighter, so I figured it would be a good fit. I fell in love with the work immediately, and love the organization and the people in it more every year. Something that took me years to realize is that it's not obvious to some families that wishes won't cost them anything. Many families have worried unduly because they didn't know this, so I now make sure they know from the first meeting that this won't create a financial burden for them."

"So many of my happiest, satisfying and most humbling moments have come from Wish Granting. It's every parents worst fear that something will happen to their kids and I've been very fortunate with mine, so I'm so glad to have had the opportunity to help in a way that really makes a difference. The longest thank-you note I ever received was from a mom who poured her heart out about how their trip to Disney World saved them when they felt they were at the end of their rope, so it makes me feel really proud to be a member of an organization where we can wave our wands and make things better, at least for awhile."

Erin Johansen

Erin became a Make-A-Wish Oregon Volunteer Wish Granter, after experiencing the power of a wish firsthand. Her daughter, Ella, was granted a wish in 2014, and Erin was so impacted by this life-changing experience, she wanted to give back to the organization that "reminded her family what joy felt like." In addition to being a wish granter, Erin is also on the Walk For Wishes committee and helps out at Holiday Magic at Randall Children's Hospital. If she had one wish in the world, it would be to become a full time wish granter, which is one of the many reasons why we love Erin and are so grateful for her continued support.

Erin
"My heart is full after volunteering. The joy that the wish families bring me is 10 times more than the joy I bring them. One of my first wishes was a little boy with a wish to go to Hawaii. His energy and enthusiasm was infectious. When the family got off the plane, the wish kid gave me the biggest hug and was so happy, which in turn made me the happiest person in the airport. it warms my heart to see the power of a wish in action," said Erin Johansen.

"My advice for other wish granters is to get to know the wish kid and the siblings. The siblings are just as much a part of the journey as the wish kid. They don't have the medical condition, but the world as they knew it also turned upside down. The smallest connections make the biggest impact. It can be as small as remembering a kids favorite candy or their favorite superhero. I had a wish kid that loved Andes candies and I brought them to her wish party. They didn't get eaten so the mom put them in the snack drawer and the next morning the wish kid was amazed they her favorite candy magically appeared, she replied 'how do they know?'"

Jessica Gryziec

As fate would have it, Jessica Gryziec happened upon a flier for a Make-A-Wish Oregon volunteer information session, and on a whim decided to attend. 14 years later, Jessica has helped to fulfill dozens of local wishes and is dedicated to creating magic as one of our rock star volunteer wish granters.


"Make-A-Wish has filled my life with wonderful friends and I am so blessed and fortunate to continue to be part of the magic we create and the lives we change. I’ve said it since the beginning and I continue to say it, I get so much more from the foundation than I ever feel I could give. It’s changed my life and I know it will continue to do so."

"Right before my first meeting with a new wish kid, I like to take a few minutes in my car and I just remind myself what Make-A-Wish is or means to me. A lot of my wish visits take place after a long hard day at work so I have to give myself a few moments to put away ‘work Jessica’ and bring out ‘wish Jessica.’  There are a lot of different ways you can do this but I like to watch a video I took of a wish reveal, or see a picture of a wish kid they sent me while they were on their trip. Sometimes I just think for a few minutes about what it means that another wish child is getting ready to let me be part of a chapter of their life. And how special is that – that I get to be a guest in the tapestry of this young person’s story.  And I try my best to leave behind me what I have going on in my world and I enter theirs and we talk about all their favorite things, and what they dream of, and who they are.  And what a beautiful thing it is to get caught up in their world and in their dreams."


Mary Brown

This month, we are featuring Mary Brown, a volunteer who gives every ounce of her heart to every wish. We thank her for all her efforts in making Make-A-Wish a priority in her life. She is a huge asset to our team and we appreciate all that she does to support local children.

Mary Brown

"Make-A-Wish is the most fulfilling work I have ever done, with or without a paycheck. As a wish granter, I have the chance to help people on a human level by offering heartfelt kindness and genuine listening. I believe these gestures have the power to nourish the human spirit and can briefly lift the burden from wish families who so often face fear and uncertainty. I feel enriched with hope and happiness after I spend time volunteering for Make-A-Wish. I am inspired by the resilience and determination of my wish kids, and I am amazed by the endurance of their families. While I am honored to walk with my wish kids for a short time on their journey toward healing and wholeness, my heart is filled with gratitude for my own healthy son. Volunteering for Make-A-Wish has been a humbling experience that often brings new perspective to my own life. I am hopeful that I can make a difference in someone’s life by sharing the love within my heart and by simply caring."

"My advice for other wish granters: Ask questions! I learn something new with every wish because the staff is patient and helpful in clearly answering my questions. Visit the toy wall! I usually find a nice selection of (free) gifts, particularly for the younger kids. In addition, I encourage others to seek in-kind donations from business owners. I am impressed by their generosity to our wish kids, and I am thankful for the opportunity to build a network of community support for the kids. Finally, work as a team with your wish partner as you create magic and bring joy to your wish kids! Communicate often, and share ideas and responsibilities so each of you will feel valued as a contributor to the wish process."


Annisa Soelberg

Annisa Soelberg is a committed Make-A-Wish Oregon volunteer wish granter who is dedicated to transforming the lives of local children living in our community. She is a huge part of why our annual Holiday Magic event is a success, and we appreciate all that she does to create meaningful moments for our wish families.

Annisa


"I love Make-A-Wish Oregon and am so honored to be part of something so special. Being able to give back is an amazing feeling and truly being part of such a great volunteer organization is the best."

"Every wish is unique and special. Even if you don't think it's big enough to that family, you are making magic. My advice is to listen to the child for things they really like. Sometimes outside influencers can take over a wish."




Jan Shaver

Jan was inspired to become a volunteer, after a former student of hers was diagnosed with a brain tumor and she learned about Make-A-Wish. Since then, she has helped with local penny drives, radio telethons, fundraisers, and more. She's also granted 52 wishes since 1997, which is simply incredible. We appreciate Jan, and all that she does to create special memories for local wish kids.

Jan Shaver


"It is a wonderful feeling to know that you have brought hope, joy, and excitement to a child who has been through some very difficult times due to illness," said Jan.  "I love meeting the children and their families, and working on their wishes. I have loved working on many wishes, but I think my two favorites involved building playhouses in the backyards of the children’s homes. I was able to find volunteers to put the playhouse kits together, and I loved making curtains, aprons, napkins and placemats to go with the playhouse furnishings." 


"My advice for other wish granters is to listen
 carefully to the children when they are talking about their wish. I just take notes about the wish and afterward, discuss it with the other wish granter before we write anything on the wish forms. As the child talks, the true wish often becomes clearer, and it is easier to write down after we leave the wish child’s home."





Milenka Coltman

Milenka Coltman is one of our phenomenal, Spanish-speaking volunteers who continuously makes a difference in our community. She is a loyal volunteer who spreads positivity wherever she goes! We truly value her ability to communicate and connect with families in this special way.

Milenka

"Volunteering isn’t one of the most glamorous of jobs, but it is one of the most rewarding  jobs that I can do. After volunteering, my heart fills with joy. Every wish I complete, I learn new things about myself from the amazing spirit of these courageous kids," said Coltman.

"My favorite wish was when this amazing little girl got to experience her wish of going to Disneyland and meeting Micky and Minnie before passing away due to her illness. I learned from her to cherish and enjoy every moment we get with those around us. The best advice I can give to other wish granters is to just think of the happiness you will bring to the families in these hard times not in the sadness of the situation as a whole."



Rick Kim

If Rick Kim had one wish in the world, it would be to visit and entertain kids in local hospitals to perform magic tricks. A wish that's reflective of his big heart. Rick is the type of person who leaves a room better than he found it. He is a true champion of wishes, who supports Make-A-Wish Oregon through volunteering at events and donating annually in support of future wishes. His advice for other wish granters: Always stay focused on what’s best for the child.

Rick Kim

"When reflecting on what has been most memorable in my life, some of the most indelible memories were those where I was able to help other people in some way.  So, out of gratitude, having been affected by the personal tragedy of the loss of life, and because I consider life precious, I wanted to help our most vulnerable people in Oregon, kiddos with serious/life-threatening conditions, on a level more intimate than donating money," said Rick Kim.

"The latest wish granted is always my favorite! The joy on a kiddo’s face and the pure love among family and friends that is palpable to all makes each wish special and rewarding in its own way. Seeing the happiness & joy on a child’s face brings me joy, makes me thankful that Make-A-Wish is here for these kiddos, and fills me with gratitude that I was able to help in some small way. Also, being one of the eldest wish granters, I find this Emerson quote appropriate: 'You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.'"


Linda Neiffer & Stefanie Spivey

Linda Neiffer and Stefanie Spivey are friends and colleagues who have joined forces to become a wish granting team in Eastern Oregon. This dynamic duo work on countless wishes together, and will drive anywhere to make a child's wish come true. On every wish, the two shop, plan, and call wish families together. Their advice to other wish granters: "Communication is key. Communicate until you feel like you are over communicating."

Linda and Stefnie

"I became a teacher because kids inspire me and early in my career one of my students was a wish kid. I was touched in so many ways, and saw firsthand how much Make-A-Wish impacted his family. His wish became a positive during a difficult time. Make-A-Wish is all about kids and families, and I wanted to be a part of the magic. Every child's dream and wish inspire me. I LOVE Make-A-Wish and meeting 'my' new wish kid and their family. After the wish is over, I miss them and always hope their wish was everything they hoped for." ~Linda Neiffer. 

"I admire an organization that puts kids first in their highest time of need. I love that Make-A-Wish is all about the kids all the time. I am proud of the contribution that I can make even in the smallest way to kids in need. This may sound strange, but my favorite wish is always the next wish. I don't want to ever stop volunteering. I love the entire experience and can't say enough about how valuable my partner is. Together, we are double the love for families."~Stefanie Spivey.


 

Jan and Katie Walker

Jan and Katie Walker are a mother-daughter-in-law volunteer wish granting dream team that supports local wishes in Southern Oregon. Their genuine desire to impact lives inspired their family to host a community golf tournament every year. The Gold Dust Farms Golf Tournament has raised over $81,000 since 2014.

Jan and Katie Walker

"I have always believed that children are just about the most precious thing we should all cherish. Make-A-Wish was another way to help kids. These children are extra special because their needs are so emotional, and often frightening but they are just children needing special attention. Every child and family are so special. The stress of making the wish experience all perfect can wear you down, but my advice for other wish granters is to breathe deep and know it will be special to that child no matter what happens." ~Jan Walker. 

"Wish granting fulfills my desire to help others. I have always volunteered for various activities in my community and have finally found my volunteer calling. After volunteering, most of the time, I leave feeling like I am making a difference in the wish child and their family's life. Other times I am heartbroken because of the heartache these families have to deal with. I believe that no act of kindness is too small. The gift of kindness may start as a small ripple that over time can turn into a tidal wave affecting the lives of many." ~ Katie Walker. 


Chris Ackman

Chris Ackman is an incredible woman, who cares tremendously about supporting our mission. Without question, she has made a lasting impact in the lives of local wish kids. Chris is a volunteer wish granter, but also helps out at the Make-A-Wish Oregon office, and volunteers on the Walk for Wishes Committee. Chris also participates in the Holiday Magic event at Randall Children's Hospital, assists with airport tours, and acts as a liaison between Alaska Airlines and wish families.


Chris Ackman

"
Volunteering feeds my soul. I love what I do and the families I serve! I’ve been so blessed to be a part of so many special families and their wishes. I’ve got to say my favorite wish probably would be granting a wish for 'a puppy to love.'  But that doesn’t take away from other extraordinary wishes from all my wish kiddos! My advice to other wish granters is to give your first meeting a priority. First meetings can set the tone for the wish. Follow through with communication often. As a special farewell, at the end of each wish, I make a video memory for my kiddos as a keepsake."




Isa

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Make-A-Wish® Oregon
2000 SW 1st Avenue, Suite 410
Portland, OR 97201
(503) 292-2280
Toll Free (800) 934-9474