EVANSTON — Evanston resident Amy Kelly was recently honored as the Volunteer of the Year for Make a Wish Wyoming at the 17th Annual Stories of Light Gala in Casper.
“I started volunteering with Make a Wish when I lived in Jackson in 1995,” Kelly told the Herald. “I worked with the Wish Assist program where we worked with other state chapters to find donors for children’s wishes. When we moved to Evanston in 2006, I continued to volunteer with Make a Wish and have served for 23 years now.”
According to Wish and Communications coordinator Jenna VonHofe, who is based in the Casper office, the state has more than 60 wish-granting volunteers that will meet directly with the wish child and family members to help determine a wish child’s true wish, while brainstorming and planning special enhancements throughout the wish process. Wish granters typically work in teams of two alongside Make a Wish staff to ensure every eligible child’s wish comes true. The Casper office typically receives about 30 eligible referrals each year around the state, and local wish granters work with each family to capture the details of each wish and serve as liaisons between the chapter and the family.
“Amy was selected as the Volunteer of the Year in honor of the countless instances where she has gone above and beyond for wish children and their families,” VonHofe said. “This year alone, Amy was involved in at least 10 separate wish experiences with Wyoming wish children. She has answered the call to serve wish children in the state time and time again. We couldn’t be more thankful that she has chosen to work with our organization throughout the years.”
The main office for Make a Wish Wyoming is in Casper and referrals are sent there. The Casper office takes the referral to their Board of Directors who uses established guidelines and a list of illnesses that qualify to determine eligibility. Children ages 2 to 18 are eligible for the program.
Kelly said, “I may not ever know what their illness is unless they tell me. There is a misconception that Make a Wish is only for children with terminal illness. Children with a life-threatening or critical illness qualify as well.”
According to their website, the Make a Wish Foundation was founded in 1980, when a 7-year-old child named Christopher Grecieus was being treated for leukemia and always dreamed of becoming a police officer. When U.S. Customs Officer Tommy Austin became friends with Christopher, he worked with DPS in Phoenix, Arizona, to grant the boy’s wish.
Since 1980, the charity has grown to have 62 chapters throughout the U.S. and in 47 other countries through affiliate offices. The Wyoming Chapter was founded 34 years ago. Supporting the foundation are donations from private individuals (42%); corporate and organizations (43%); and other revenue and income (15%). The majority of funds, 76%, are used for program services; 12% supports management of the foundation; and 10% is used for fund-raising.
The foundation works closely with the child’s physician and family to make sure they are physically well enough to participate in a wish fulfillment. There are usually five categories that most wishes fall into — I wish to go; I wish to be; I wish to meet; I wish to have; and I wish to give.