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Give & Take: My Make-A-Wish Musings

Alexis Ganz

When I first joined Make-A-Wish last year, I was expecting a challenging – yet rewarding – volunteer experience.

Those expectations have been met tenfold. The experience has led to some surprising lessons and realizations that have served to not only enrich my life as a volunteer, but also my life as an employee and as a person.

In honor of National Volunteer Month, here are the top lessons I’ve learned from my experience.

1. Don’t Discount the Value of Making Someone’s Life Easier

When I first begin my work as a wish coordinator – or a volunteer responsible for meeting with and maintaining communications with the wish family and Make-A-Wish staff on the creation, progression and completion of the wish – I thought my creativity and “think big” approach would be my biggest value-add. That was wishful thinking…literally.

The truth is, the biggest value I bring to my role is the ability to lessen someone else’s burden. On top of the stress of their child’s illness, wish families often deal with mountains of medical paperwork, bureaucracy and clinical interactions with a rotating cast of characters. Through all the calls, texts and face-to-face meetings with families, one of the learnings that has surprised me most is sometimes, the best thing I can do is simply to help with the details. Giving families the headspace to focus on something positive and fun, without having to focus on the details of making it happen, can be an immense relief. While it may not seem glamorous, being able to make someone’s life just a little bit easier (even for a moment) during their time of need is valuable and meaningful.

2. Surprise – and Delight

 When I first got started with Make-A-Wish, I anticipated the big wish reveal would be the ultimate way to thrill wish kids and their families. What I didn’t anticipate was the surprise – and delight – that was generated by the little things along the way. Throughout the lifecycle of a wish, volunteers are responsible for selecting and sending a variety of smaller gifts. These gifts aren’t extravagant, but the reaction and response to a simple “thinking of you” gift is often on par with the response to the big reveal. This has been an excellent reminder that it’s not always just about the end result, but the time, attention and impact of going the extra mile throughout the process.

3. It’s PR, Not the ER

In my very first Prosek interview, a very insightful colleague said “Remember: It’s PR, not the ER.”  While said in jest, Make-A-Wish has led me to reflect on just how true this point is.

Confession: I’m Type A to the core. I can spend a lot of time getting caught up in (often self-imposed) pressure in both my personal and professional life. Volunteering has been an important lesson in perspective. There are things worth stressing over, and there are things that aren’t. While I’m still working on putting that perspective into practice, I’m lucky to work at a company that allows me time every month to explore volunteerism and the clarity that comes along with it.

If you’re interested in getting involved with Make-A-Wish check out

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