First, a little bit of history. Back in the summer of 2006, I was in the middle of a career change. While I was figuring out what to do, I decided to volunteer. After some research, I learned that the Make-A-Wish National Office was in Phoenix — my then-new home.
I interviewed and joined the Communications team to assist with the national website re-launch scheduled for Sept. 1 that year. It seemed like I was working a part-time job, feverishly working to add wish stories before the website launch.
Several months later, through timing and a little bit of luck, I became a full-time Make-A-Wish employee. I’d like to think that my work spoke for itself and impressed my colleagues.
My primary responsibility is to work with the 61 chapters on their websites based on a solution the National Office provides.
Back to the Present
In mid-August, the Central New York chapter asked if I could attend its annual Wish Ball, the chapter’s biggest fundraising event of the year and a celebration of its wish kids. Not only would I attend the Wish Ball, I would present the Cindy Award for Volunteer of the Year.
This year’s recipient was Jack Gray from Syracuse, a chapter volunteer for many years. I started working with Jack in early 2010 when he single-handedly built the then-new chapter’s website. The National Office provided the basic structure. But Jack ensured that everything meshed with the new website.
In 2011, the National Office began work on refreshing its website and the chapter websites. Right now, you’re seeing the result of all that work. Once again, Jack took the reins. He dared to push the limits of the new system. In May of this year, Jack repeated his feat of 2010 – to be one of the first chapters launched on our new website platform.
The Central New York chapter wanted to surprise Jack by awarding him the Cindy Award for Volunteer of the Year.
Putting the Plan Into Action
Chapter leaders asked Jack to attend for a public unveiling of the new website — a devious ploy to get Jack in the building.
At the Wish Ball on Sept. 7, I take the stage and deliver my speech about Jack. Not only do I share my reflections about Jack and all of the tremendous work he has done on the chapter’s behalf, but I also relay the respect and admiration the Central New York chapter has for Jack.
A Historic and Heartfelt First Meeting
As Jack steps onstage, we shake hands and hug. Through countless emails and phone calls over nearly four years, this is the first time we meet face-to-face. It's an honor for me to present this award to Jack.
As a former volunteer, I’ve personally been rewarded with being able to work for a great organization that does tremendous work serving wish kids.
And as a former volunteer, being able to recognize another volunteer formally with a prestigious award is equally as rewarding.
Make-A-Wish chapters value the work all the volunteers perform, at all levels, as they are the backbone of what we do. Without the volunteers, our organization would not be successful. This is just one example that shows how much each chapter appreciates its volunteers.
You can be a volunteer, too. Find out how!