“My friend and I said to each other, ‘this might as well say Bernie’ and laughed because it seemed like the perfect role for me,” said Bernie, who also was a foster mother for several years.
“I was looking for a different opportunity to get involved and better kids’ lives,” she continued. “Make-A-Wish Arizona was eye-opening because I never realized there were so many kids with eligible illnesses who were still waiting for their wishes to be granted.”
Bernie, who started volunteering two years ago, still remembers her first wish.
“I was nervous but I jumped in right away because a Spanish-speaking family needed a wish granter,” she said. “Vallery’s wish made me realize I had nothing to be afraid of. After her wish to go to Hawaii was completed and she had such a great time, I was hooked. And I still keep in touch with her family to this day.”
Another of Bernie’s wishes, renovating Keith’s room into a sensory space, she holds close to her heart.
“Keith responds to lights, sounds and textures, so we planned out items that would make his current room more stimulating and into a space he could really enjoy,” she said.
“Many of his family members flew into town, and we carried in hundreds of boxes to transform his room in one day so they could all be there to see the finished product later that night.”
Bernie’s favorite part of wishes is watching kids’ reactions.
“When Keith saw his room, his eyes lit up,” she said. “His eyesight is not very good so we moved him to each individual item so he could see them up close and I loved watching his excitement grow.”
“I think that in these moments, kids can forget their illness and get to feel like kids again,” she continued. “Knowing I can give them a little sense of hope makes me feel like I’m making a difference.”
Bernie doesn’t restrict her volunteering to granting wishes. Because she works next to Sky Harbor International Airport, she also assists with airport greetings and send-offs for wish families when her fellow wish granters can’t make it and helps out with Make-A-Wish Arizona events too.
“I help when I can,” said Bernie, who has granted seven wishes and is currently in the process of six new wishes right now. “If I didn’t have to work, I would definitely be a full-time wish granter.”
Although Bernie is celebrating her two-year anniversary with Make-A-Wish Arizona this month, one thing has continued to surprise her wish after wish.
“I am amazed by the resilience of these young kids,” she said. “My wish kid Paige is 4 years old and when we first met she showed me scans of her brain tumor and told me that her favorite day of the week is chemo day, because she gets to have a special treat and the nurses are nice to her.”
“I think if we could all look at life a little more like Paige, the world would be a better place.”
My Wish: I would wish to experience history and architecture in Egypt