“After graduating from Arizona State University, I moved to Orlando to work for Walt Disney World and really wanted to find a way to get involved with my community,” said Melissa. “During my time there, I learned about Give Kids the World, the special hotel for children with medical needs where many of our wish kids stay. I worked a lot with Make-A-Wish kids and was able to experience their wishes with them, which was so amazing to watch.”
When Melissa made the move back to Arizona, she knew she had to get involved with the local Arizona chapter. That is when Melissa decided to become a volunteer wish granter.
“My favorite part about volunteering is the parents’ reaction during the wish reveal. Of course I love the look on the wish kid’s face, but their parent’s face shows pure happiness. They sacrifice so much of their lives to keep their kids in high spirits and getting to see their joy is always a special moment,” she said.
Since volunteering with Make-A-Wish Arizona, Melissa has seen a noticeable impact in her own life.
“Volunteering with these wish kids makes you realize that no matter what happens, you can find the good in life. I have learned that even when life gets difficult, it is possible to overcome a setback and keep pushing forward with a positive attitude, because that’s what all my wish kids do,” Melissa said.
Melissa also said she is always amazed by the community’s involvement and families’ attitudes to support wish kids.
“My most memorable wish kid has been a girl named McKenna. Her family’s spirit is absolutely incredible and I had so much fun helping her find the perfect cruise so that she could go on her wish to see her favorite animals – whales!” she said. “One of the best parts about McKenna’s wish was how the community of Anthem came together to take care of McKenna like a giant family. For example, one community member did a photoshoot for McKenna, her family and the wish granters before she left on her wish trip.”
“Every time I talked to them they were so positive, with such happy souls,” continued Melissa. “McKenna’s diagnosis wasn’t a defeat. Instead, she treated it as a new way of life. Her family goes above and beyond to make sure McKenna continues to live happily and travel, even though she is in a wheelchair.”
Over the past two years, Melissa has granted 24 wishes. But she doesn’t want that number to scare anyone away from this experience.
“A lot of people have told me they don’t know how volunteers find the time to be wish granters, but I would tell prospective volunteers that being a wish granter is not overwhelmingly time consuming! I am don’t work on wishes every day, and have the ability to be a part of as many wishes as I choose. The experience varies depending on the type of wish and a lot of other factors,” she said.
Besides working closely with wish kids and their families, Melissa explains another benefit of wish granting is becoming part of an expanded community.
“I always joke that I have wish granting friends in every time zone – Virginia, Florida, California and of course Arizona. It’s so cool to come together and share these amazing experiences with other chapters and volunteers,” she said.
“Being a volunteer continues to make me a better person, I feel so grateful that I can provide a lifelong memory for the wish kid and their family. That’s what motivates me to continue to volunteer.”
My one true wish: I wish to go to Bora Bora where they have those beautiful cabanas with glass floors in the middle of the ocean!