Arias brings more than 14 years of nonprofit leadership experience to the position, as well as a passion for helping children with critical illnesses reclaim a piece of their childhood.
“Very early in my career I worked with children who were impacted by life-threatening disease. When I would ask what they wished for, it wouldn’t lessen the pain of the medical regimens, but it did allow them a freedom that nothing else seemed to. It gave them a chance to feel normal and to feel a sense of belonging to the community,” she said. “Make-A-Wish gives a child hope to think about the future and to allow them to belong to their community and no longer just be the ‘sick kid.’ It’s that same sense of hope and opportunity provided to parents—to step out of the routine of providing care for their child and instead experience the ‘normal’ joy of a wish trip or a shopping spree—that drives me to do my best work and one I am truly excited to support.”
As the president and CEO, Arias will lead the organization in achieving its vision to grant a wish to every eligible child. Currently, more than 500 children are waiting for a wish–that’s enough kids to fill seven school buses–and there are even more children who may qualify for a wish, yet don’t know that they are eligible.
“We are thrilled to welcome Melissa to Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington,” said Lauren Hudspeth, Make-A-Wish trustee and incoming Board Chair. “Her track record of fundraising success, board management, staff development and executive leadership are exactly the right skillsets needed to lead the organization to its highest potential.”
Prior to joining Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington, Arias was Associate Vice Chancellor for Advancement External Relations at the University of Washington Bothell. For more than nine years, she successfully led fundraising strategy, alumni relations and directed UW Bothell’s comprehensive campaign activities. Prior to the UW, she was the Director of Development for Domestic Abuse Women’s Network. She is experienced in leading high-performing teams, has substantially increased fundraising and has exceeded goals in each position she’s held. She looks forward to the challenge of doing so at Make-A-Wish. In addition to her vast nonprofit experience, Arias is also an attorney and practiced environmental law prior to her career in philanthropy.
Arias has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Washington, earned a Juris Doctorate from Seattle University School of Law and has a certificate in Non-Profit Management from Seattle University. She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the Washington State Bar Association and the Woodinville Rotary. She resides in Bothell with her family.
About Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington
Together, we create life-changing wish experiences for children with critical illnesses. Research shows children who have wishes granted build the physical and emotional strength they need to fight a critical illness. This improves their quality of life and produces better health outcomes. When a wish is granted, a child replaces fear with confidence, sadness with joy and anxiety with hope. Yet, not every child in our territory who is eligible for a wish receives one. With your help, we can change that. For more information please call 800.304.9474, visit akwa.wish.org or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @MakeAWishAKWA.