A note from Lindsey, our Volunteer Coordinator:
Whether you volunteer as a wish granter, translator, fundraiser, event speaker, office helper, airport greeter, or any other kind of contributor to wish world, thank you. Our volunteers are the wheels of our mission; we don’t go anywhere without your gifts of time and talent. I get to work with the kindest people in the world. You inspire our wish kids and wish families, but you also inspire so many in the Oklahoma community. The power of a wish is truly exponential, and I could never thank you enough. With the hope and joy you are bringing to these families, we are changing lives one wish at a time.
On behalf of the entire Make-A-Wish Oklahoma staff, we wish you a happy Volunteer Appreciation Week and thank you for all that you do!
Friday Spotlight: Vera Puls
Wish Granter & Nurse
Vera has been volunteering with Make-A-Wish Oklahoma since June of 2010 and was our 2017 volunteer of the year. Vera is a pediatric nurse at the Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center. “As a nurse sometimes, I am the ‘bad guy’ in a child’s eye because I use needles, give yucky tasting meds, etc… As a wish granter though, I get to be the good guy. What an honor it is (and fun too!) to be the one to deliver such great news as a wish being granted! It brings me so much joy!!!”
Vera started off just doing one wish at a time, basically one a year. Now she finds herself juggling two or three wishes at any given time. Though, all her wishes have been special and unique in some way there are two that really stand out. The first wish Vera was a volunteer wish granter on was wish kid Lorelei, who wished to be the head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder. “This was the Thunder’s first ever wish to help grant and they went all out! Rumble, himself, and Brian Davis had the honor of helping reveal her wish!”
The second wish is a wish kid who is one of her patients. Vera has watched her patient battle his illness for several years. “I watched him transform from a toddler who basically lived at the hospital to a boy with a new family and a successful kidney transplant running, dancing, and smiling ear-to-ear at the thought of meeting Mickey.” During his time in the hospital he was bound to a bed and did not have many visitors. He turned to Mickey on his TV everyday and he became his best friend. “He spoke to the TV as if the characters were really there with him. So, to meet him was absolutely the BEST wish come true ever! That wish will always hold a very special place in my heart!"
Vera doesn’t just volunteer as a wish granter though! She enjoys volunteering for Make-A-Wish Oklahoma in other areas, such as our internal events, and the Wish Purse Luncheon is her FAVORITE.
From throwing themed send-off parties to being an assist to us on the medical side of wishes, Vera has been such an asset to our organization. Her love for Make-A-Wish and her willingness to serve in any way she can is what makes our mission possible and come to life! Thank you, Vera, for all you do for our wish kids and families!
Thursday Spotlight: Ryan Carter
New Wish Granter
“Volunteering for Make-A-Wish is truly an enchanting and life changing experience.”
Ryan is one of our newest wish granting volunteers. He came in with a giving heart and ready to lend a hand wherever he was needed. Being a big name in the nonprofit world, Ryan had always known about Make-A-Wish as an organization but began to familiarize himself with the Oklahoma chapter through a friend that is on staff. Ryan told us, “I had listened to her stories of children and families that have benefited from the mission and goals of Make-A-Wish. She spoke passionately about the situations these families are in and the work and stress that not only each child goes through, but the sacrifices that are made by their surrounding families and loved ones.”
It wasn’t long before Ryan saw a window of opportunity to serve and participate with Make-A-Wish Oklahoma, and he was ready to hit the ground running!
“These wishes can spark so much joy and opportunity for wish kids and their families that I knew I wanted to play a part. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of kids and families that were going through critical illnesses -giving them something to look forward to and something to raise their spirits.”
Ryan pondered interactions with wish kids and realized he could help bring them joy and a sense of normalcy. He could be a friend and mentor to them, play with them if they wanted. Being a wish granter is important to Ryan because it allows him the opportunity to connect on a personal level with the children and families being served by the organization,“…getting to watch a wish kids wish come true is honestly one of the most magical moments.”
Ryan signed up to be Julio’s wish granter quickly after he went through volunteer training. Julio is 12-years-old and comes from a Spanish speaking family. Ryan was overcome with joy when he first met Julio, as he watched his maturity as he translated every sentence for his family to understand. Julio told Ryan about his love for soccer, “his eyes would light up when discussing his love for the game and playing outside.” What a magical experience to have on your first wish interview as a volunteer!
Ryan said, “witnessing someone experiencing these illnesses have so much joy and seeing the light in their eyes sparkle is exactly why volunteering for Make-A-Wish is an opportunity I do not take for granted”.
Ryan, we are amazed by your giving heart and supportive hand! Thank you for helping us grant extraordinary wishes!
Wednesday Spotlight: Natalie Gilbert
Intern & Wish Granter
Natalie found out about Make-A-Wish through volunteering at The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center on the Oncology floor. She always had a heart for children and was particularly drawn to working with children that were critically ill when she was in high school and college. Natalie would do art projects with patients while they waited for their appointments. During this time, she learned more about Make-A-Wish and knew she wanted to get involved. Natalie interned with Make-A-Wish Oklahoma for a year in 2012-2013, first as a Volunteer Management Intern and then as a Wish Coordinating Intern. Natalie said, “It absolutely was the most rewarding year of my life. I witnessed the power of a wish shine light in the midst of some the darkest times for wish kids and their families.”
After her internship, Natalie graduated from law school and continues to stay involved with Make-A-Wish Oklahoma by volunteering as a wish granter.
One wish family that has significantly impacted her life, was Gage and his family. Gage wished to go to Disney World and LegoLand. “I have never met a kid that loved Legos as much as Gage did. When I met Gage, he was going through treatment and had lost most of his hair. He and his family have remained positive, resilient, and joyful despite all that they faced. I have since had the privilege of witnessing Gage go through his last treatment, ring the bell at the Children’s Hospital, create artwork for Art with a Heart, and grow all of hair back!”
Natalie is sure to stay in touch with Gage and his family by meeting with them at least once a year to catch up and spend time together. “Make-A-Wish has provided me with friendships, like Gage and his family’s that I will hold onto forever.”
We appreciate you, Natalie, and your dedication to the Make-A-Wish Oklahoma mission and our wish kids. Thanks for all you have done as a volunteer!
Tuesday Spotlight: Katie Goss
Wish Kid & Wish Ambassador
Our volunteers aren't limited to only wish granting and special event volunteers. There is a place for everyone to lend a hand, and our spotlighted volunteer, Katie Goss, is a perfect example of that. Katie is not only one of our former wish kids but is also an amazing Wish Ambassador for Make-A-Wish Oklahoma. Katie was diagnosed with a rare form of muscular dystrophy called Friedreich’s Ataxia, but doesn’t let that stop her from being on-the-go! She was granted her wish to go to Hawaii in 2012 where she got to swim with dolphins. “My wish gave me the hope, strength, and joy to fight my illness and I want other kids to get that same power I have, so I breathe, eat, and sleep Make-A-Wish so that can be possible.”
Katie has remained active with Make-A-Wish Oklahoma through attending and speaking at various internal and external events, meeting with donors and hosting numerous types of fundraisers to raise funds to help us grant more wishes. In 2014, she received the Lori Schultz Indomitable Spirit Award at the Make-A-Wish National Conference and continues to be a light and great example of the power of a wish.
Thank you, Katie, for being a continuous example of the medical impact a wish can have on our wish kids. We are so grateful to have you as a wish ambassador!
Monday Spotlight: Lindsey Searcy
Wish Granter & Volunteer Recruiter
Every 17 minutes, a wish is granted for a child living with a critical illness. Behind each one of those wishes are volunteers who donate their time and talent to make the impossible possible. One of our amazing volunteers we want to spotlight is Lindsey Searcy.
Lindsey is from the Tulsa region and became involved with Make-A-Wish Oklahoma after listening to her preacher’s sermon where he said, “figure out something you love and then figure out a way to help people with that love.” Lindsey immediately thought of a recent trip to Disney World she and her family took.
“I love Disney more than anything. My first thought went to a recent Disney trip where a Make-A-Wish family was on the plane with us. I talked to the mom and she was almost in tears saying how she was so nervous about the trip and what they should make sure to ride, etc. I talked with her for a bit and gave her a list of rides to make sure to go on. So, as I was putting together my love for Disney and how to help other people I thought ‘OH MY GOSH’ I could help with Make-A-Wish and help people with their wish trips to Disney World. I applied that night to be a wish granter!”
From there Lindsey’s love and dedication for Make-A-Wish has only grown. Lindsey has done so much in her time volunteering for Make-A-Wish Oklahoma and has referred several current volunteers through a Zumba class she teaches. She has even found a way to include her 10-year-old daughter in her volunteer efforts. Lindsey’s daughter now makes personalized blankets for wish kids, based on their hobbies and interests.
Lindsey said, “When seeing how many blankets she might need to make she decided to start a small group at our church. They are named the Hillspring Make-A-Wish Blanketeers. They each love it so much and enjoy seeing pictures of the kids with their blankets.”
“I will never be able to express my gratitude for Make-A-Wish and the effect it has had on my life. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to work with these kids and the Make-A-Wish staff.”
From all of us at Make-A-Wish Oklahoma, thank YOU Lindsey for giving your time and energy to serve our wish kids and families!