Shortly after Judith moved from New York to Phoenix, she began looking for opportunities to do volunteer work. A search through VolunteerMatch.com uncovered an opportunity at Make-A-Wish America headquarters. The position gave her the chance to work with Make-A-Wish’s Celebrity and National Sports team.
The team handles wishes involving athletes, entertainers, movies and television shows. Through its work, wish kids have been extras on top-rated television shows, performed onstage with hit musical acts and played games of one-on-one with some of the world’s greatest sports stars.
Judith was already well-acquainted with Make-A-Wish’s name and mission and was eager to apply. Working with the national office suits her skills because it combines management work with an uplifting mission that appeals to her. Now a freelance grant writer, she had spent five years in New York as development director of a film arts organization, so she was accustomed to dealing with celebrities.
Kristina Hesse, a celebrity program manager at the national office, said Judith’s work inputting new wish requests, updating forms and drafting letters soliciting celebrity auction items for the Foundation’s Destination JoySM online auction has been a great help for the department.
“She’s a self-starter, and her input has been insightful to these new processes,” Hesse said.
Gardner is also a perfect example for people interested in volunteering for Make-A-Wish in areas other than wish-granting. Though she might rarely interact with wish kids, her work is instrumental in helping them to meet their idols. Though dealing with celebrities is familiar ground to Gardner, she was surprised by the volume some celebrities take on. She’s amazed at champion NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon’s prolific wish-granting, now approaching 200 wishes.
“I was really impressed with his dedication when I heard how many wishes he grants,” Gardner said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Though helping connect wish kids to their idols fits her talents so well, the satisfaction of helping bring joy to sick kids is really the highlight.