Pam Roueche recognized the little girl immediately, even though nearly two years had passed. Pam had been involved with her wish experience, which also helped the girl’s family reunite. This chance meeting is just one of the unexpected moments that helped Pam realize the lasting impact of her volunteer work.
In Honor of an Aunt’s Memory
Pam’s path to Make-A-Wish began 13 years ago.
“My aunt died of cancer in December 2001, on Dec. 29, 2001, so I just wanted to do something to honor her memory,” she says. She chose Make-A-Wish as the organization where she would devote so much of her time.
Years after Pam first became involved, she invited her family watch her deliver good news to a wish kid: "Your wish is coming true." That would start a domino effect leading to her niece Melissa getting involved with Make-A-Wish - first as a volunteer, than as an employee.
She reflects on that particular wish: “I believe that wish was one of the breakfast wishes for fundraising … and what they had set up was since this was gonna be one of those special breakfast fundraisers, they wanted to surprise him at the breakfast.”
Pam remembers the process of setting up the event. She was told to keep the actual likelihood of the child’s specific theme park wish a secret so that there would be a real surprise effect.
Laughing, she said, “It’s the only time that I’ve made a wish child cry.” When he began to think there was some doubt over getting his one true wish, he began to cry, but all was made well during the exciting fundraiser.
“It was just such a special thing,” Pam said.
Bringing Families Together
Pam’s all-time favorite wish-granting experience was one that brought a family together for a little girl’s wish trip.
“She was 10 and she had a heart condition and she had been on medication. The medication wasn’t working. It was kind of like the last resort.”
Pam mentions the little girl’s request during a meeting about the wish: to have her separated parents go with her on the trip.
“It was just absolutely heartbreaking.”
The wish enabled both parents to travel. “So dad flew down from out west, mom flew down from here. They had an absolutely fantastic wish. I swear she had 60 rolls of film when she came home. She was just the most bubbly, sweet, energetic little girl ever.”
A year-and-a-half later, Pam was at a Dairy Queen and happened to meet the wish kid again … which led to being almost knocked off her feet.
“Well ... it was her. When they had got back there was a new medication for her to try and it was working.”
The Positivity of Wish Kids
Pam reveals her favorite part of the wish-granting process.
“I think meeting the family. Because everybody’s excited and they have a whole lot of hope. I think also the part of the entire family being together, under a totally different situation. Because usually by this time a lot of them are stressed out.”
The wish experience alleviates some of the stress that families experience when dealing with life-threatening illness.
“It’s kind of like Christmas a hundred times over. It’s just something that they would never, that they could never dream of. It kind of recharges everybody.”
Thirteen Years Later
During her 13 years of involvement, Pam has often been engaged in granting three or four wishes at one time. I ask her what has kept her involved with Make-A-Wish for so long, granting so many different wishes, from an Amish wish, to a wish with nine children in the family, to one where no one spoke English.
“I’m going to cry. It makes me feel good. It makes me realize that everything in my life is really good. Even the problems are nothing compared to what other people are going through. I’m able to give them something that just, you know, lights them up.”
Outside of the hectic world of work and management, wish granting is a source of perspective for Pam.
“You know, I manage two departments, and like I said, sometimes you get stuck in what you’re doing and you think everything that’s going on is a crisis and you’re stressed out and you just think you have it so bad,” she said. “Then you meet these wish families and even with what they’re going through, and it’s astounding with the kids, even with what they’re faced, I’ve never met a negative child. If anybody could feel sorry for themselves or be in a bad mood, it could be a wish child. And they never are.”
Her final thoughts on wish granting reflect the philosophy that has made her a champion of wishes.
“It’s a way to make you kind of step back and not look so hard at your situation and it just makes you feel good. It doesn’t cost you anything but time and you get so much out of it.”
Pam's work as a volunteer inspired her niece, Melissa, to get involved with Make-A-Wish; you can read about how Melissa recently granted a wish in Arizona.