I wish to give back to Oakland Animal Services
Jessie’s wish gives her an opportunity to make a difference
When presented with the prospect of a wish, some kids know immediately exactly what they want.
Others think of so many things that they have a hard time narrowing it down. And still others initially draw a blank.
That was the case for Jessie, an 18-year-old entering her freshmen year of college at UC Santa Barbara. None of the usual options appealed to her, until she learned that she could use her wish to give back. It was like a lightbulb flashed over her head, and suddenly all the possibilities opened up for her.
Throughout high school, Jessie was often sick. She was misdiagnosed by doctors, who placed her on round after round of antibiotics—but nothing seemed to help.
After four long years of enduring painful and uncomfortable symptoms, Jessie was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis in 2019. Because her symptoms are atypical—the condition only affects her lungs, not her pancreas—the condition was difficult for doctors to detect.
Jessie says that, while coming to terms with her new diagnosis was hard, in some ways it was also a huge relief. “Finally, I was like ‘I am not crazy! There is something deeper going on,’” she explains. “I was trying to advocate for myself to my doctors, but it’s not that easy when you are sixteen or seventeen.”
Another benefit: The diagnosis meant Jessie was finally given an effective treatment plan. “It’s really good to know that I have treatments and things that I can do to help make myself feel a lot better,” she says.
Although she was relieved to finally have answers, Jessie learned that her life would have to change in many ways. She would need to undergo treatments twice a day for the rest of her life, and her lifestyle as a social butterfly would be impacted.
“It really shifted my high school experience,” Jessie says. “I couldn’t sleep over at people’s houses; I couldn’t stay out late with my friends. I had to come home early to do treatment. That was hard.”
Jessie’s mom, Hilary, says that this shift was difficult for Jessie. “It was hard watching her go through self-isolation, because she was a very social person,” she explains. “She would go out a lot, hang out with friends, and that really changed.”
But during this period of newfound isolation, foster kittens came to Jessie’s rescue! Prior to her diagnosis, she had signed up with Oakland Animal Services (OAS) to foster kittens and checked her email every day to see if any were available, but it wasn’t kitten season yet.
Shortly after beginning treatment, two tiny foster kittens came into Jessie’s life. “It was just huge for her,” Hilary says. “She had something here that needed her here and kept her from getting too lonely.”
To date, Jessie has fostered 15 kittens and two bunnies. Although it’s hard for her to say goodbye to her fosters when they’re old enough to move on, Jessie is so proud to know that they’ve gone on to find safe and happy homes to grow up in. “It is great to know those kittens are now out in the world having their best lives with their families,” she says.
As she became more of a kitten care expert, Jessie was tasked with taking on more and more difficult fosters, including kittens fighting their own illnesses. “I went through a rough time where I lost a few kittens,” she says. “That was difficult, but I kept going. It is absolutely worth it and has brought me a lot of comfort.”
Understanding the real impact of her volunteer work, Jessie was inspired to do more, and her wish gave her that opportunity. That’s why Jessie decided to take her philanthropy to the next level—she pledged her wish to her friends at OAS. “They’ve really helped me with my diagnosis, having company all the time. It’s been really great, it’s like therapy,” she says. “So, I wanted to give something back to them.”
As part of Jessie’s wish, she donated $5,000 to OAS. She also helped them with a matching fundraising campaign that raised another $7,500. And she hosted a virtual kitten baby shower with the shelter that helped some adorable kittens find their forever homes.
The funds Jessie raised will help fund the shelters neonatal kitten care. Jessie knows that with more of this crucial funding, OAS can save more kittens. “They have the basic materials, but I want them to be able to have a lot more funding to save a lot more kittens,” she explains. “I hope that I can save a lot of sick kittens who are in the same situation that the ones I had were.”
Staff at the shelter were excited to hear about Jessie’s generous support. “Jessie has been a staff favorite at OAS because of her incredible work ethic and compassion,” says Lisa Franzetta, program director at Friends of Oakland Animal Services. “We are just overwhelmed that she wanted to use her wish to benefit our shelter’s vulnerable neonatal kitten population.”
Likewise, Jessie was thrilled to reveal her gift to the team at OAS. “It was pretty amazing,” she says. “They work so hard, and hearing everything they had to say—they were so excited—really made me happy.”
Today, Jessie’s daily treatments have greatly improved her health, allowing her to live a full and busy life as she dives into her first year of college. While her condition, coupled with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, has changed her day-to-day dramatically, she’s feeling optimistic and excited about her future. “Every day is a new day,” she says.
She hopes that her wish inspires others to make a difference in their community. “I hope that everyone can stay grateful,” she explains, “and realize that you should be very grateful for every breath. I know I am.”
While many wishes are currently on hold, we are still able to safely grant wishes like Jessie’s just when they are needed most. We need your support so that wishes aren't kept waiting a day longer than necessary! Please donate today and shine a light of hope for wish kids like Jessie.