Volunteer Spotlight: Emily Klingler
Finding the fun in wish discovery
When 5-year-old Emily Klingler learned she could have a wish, she wanted it to be super cool.
“As a five-year-old in the mid-nineties, I wished for the coolest thing I could think of,” she says, “which was to get slimed at Nickelodeon Studios.” Although she was quite young, Klingler still remembers her wish trip—she and her family spent a fun day at Nickelodeon Studios and also visited Disney World.
“It was nice to have break from the checkups and hospital visits and just be a normal kid,” she recalls. “It was a good opportunity to have quality time as a family and do something fun with my siblings.”
At the time, Klingler was in the middle of her treatment journey for Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of cancerous tumor that grows in the bones and their surrounding soft tissues and had unfortunately metastasized in her lungs. Thankfully, Klingler beat her cancer, and—now 30 years old—she’s celebrating 25 years in remission.
She also has another milestone this year, five years as a wish granting volunteer with Make-A-Wish. Klingler has already helped to bring 12 life-changing wishes to life, and counting!
“On one hand it feels like it’s gone by so fast,” she says, “but on the other hand Make-A-Wish has been part of my life for so long, it feels like you guys have just always been along for the ride.”
When Kingler went on her first wish visit with her sister Stephanie, who is also a wish granter, she felt her wish journey come full circle.
“The teenager whose wish we were granting was being treated by my former oncologist and was referred to by one of the nurses on my care team,” she explains. “Talking with the family, I could tell it was reassuring for them to see me that far past my wish and see that I was doing well.”
One of Klingler’s favorite parts of wish granting is hearing creative and fun wish ideas from the younger children, like her own wish to get slimed back in the 90’s. “I always love to see what they ask for,” she says. “I love figuring out what makes them tick; what they find joy in—it’s always something new!”
One young boy was considering his wish options and Klingler and his other wish granter asked him for additional ideas beyond his first one of a Disney cruise. “He got very, very serious and told us he needed to think about it for a minute,” says Klingler. “Then he told us he knew what he wanted—a worm. Apparently, his older brother had found a worm in the backyard and was keeping it as a pet, and he wanted one too.”
Another part she enjoys is being a wish escort for celebrity wishes across the Bay Area. Not because of the celebrities, but because she gets to see a part of the wish journey she doesn’t normally get to see as a wish granter.
“It’s hard to even put into words what it’s like to be able to stand alongside someone who is having their wish fulfilled,” she says. “I wish I could bottle the energy, joy, and excitement in those moments. Being able to witness a little bit of that makes all the work we put in worth it.”
Klingler says that wishes also offer an important moment for wish kids to take control of their lives. “I think what a lot of people fail to take into account is the power of the decision-making process,” she explains. “In general, kids don’t have a lot of autonomy, but kids who are in and out of hospitals have such little control over what is happening to their bodies or over their day-to-day routine.”
“With Make-A-Wish, we go in ask what they want,” she adds. “Even though it seems like such a small, short-term choice, it is so important.”