Jenna typed one short sentence. She attached a photo, and then clicked send. If she was right—and she hoped she was—she would soon reconnect with someone who had changed her life, 19 years ago.
Not far away, Susie’s phone buzzed. She opened her Facebook message and scrolled down. She saw a photo she hadn’t seen in years. It was a photo of Susie and Jenna, whose wish she had helped to grant years before.
Rewind to 1997. Jenna was seven years old. She had Wilms tumor the size of a football and underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation to remove the cancer from her tiny body.
In the midst of this tumultuous time, Jenna had a bright spot to look forward to. “I found out that I had a wish after my first round of chemo,” she said. “Knowing that my whole family was going to do a big trip gave the entire family something to look forward to every day."
That’s when Jenna met Susie, a long-time Make-A-Wish volunteer who has been bringing joy to local kids with life-threatening medical conditions since 1992. Susie started volunteering when she heard about a business colleague’s experience as a wish-granting volunteer, and has been hooked ever since.
“Jenna had a sunny disposition,” Susie said. “She was so warm and friendly.”
Susie helped set the wheels in motion to give Jenna and her family a much-needed break from the pokes, prods and hospital visits that consumed her young life. Jenna wished to go to Walt Disney World® Resort, and Susie was there to make it happen.
Having a wish, “gave me the courage to look ahead and look forward to whatever came next, good or bad,” said Jenna, who is now 27.
Jenna and her family traveled to Florida for her wish. She felt special at every turn, and was able to feel like a kid again. “I was able to overcome this experience (cancer) because of the positivity of my wish,” she said. “It was the light at the end of a very dark day.”
Now, nine years later, Jenna and Susie met again at Wish Night Gala & Auction. “It was surreal to meet her after all these years,” Susie said. “She’s so beautiful and lovely, and it was so wonderful to see she’s so happy and healthy.”
It’s moments like these that keep Susie volunteering. “You get so much back from (being a volunteer),” Susie said. “It brings out the best in you.”
And it’s moments like these that inspired Jenna to sign up to be a wish-granting volunteer, too. “I can’t wait to bring the same joy that I needed when I was in treatment back to other kids.”
Susie makes wish-granting a priority in her life. “It really doesn’t take that much time,” she said. “It’s easy to prioritize in your life because you are so excited to see a wish come to fruition.”
You, too, can bring joy to seriously ill kids by becoming a wish-granting volunteer. “It helps you put any challenges you have in your own life into perspective,” Susie said. “It brings out such a tender side of everybody.”
Click here to find out about volunteer opportunities throughout Alaska and Washington.