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Wish Nation

Volunteering: The Backbone of Wish Granting

South Carolina, Hugh O'Neill, Indomitable Spirit, Volunteers, Peter, Piano
In granting wishes for children with critical illnesses, Make-A-Wish® is thankful for the generosity of donors and medical professionals who support our vision to make every eligible child’s wish come true. One invaluable area of generosity that we rely on annually is the amount of time, attention and dedication more than 25,000 volunteers give to fulfill our mission. These are the individuals who do the legwork to make each child’s wish come true.

South Carolina, Hugh O'Neill, Indomitable Spirit, Volunteers, Peter, PianoThe work varies from day to day, from chapter to chapter, but volunteering is the essence of our success – critical to accomplishing goals. Volunteers spend time with wish kids and their families, with local businesses and organizations, at community gatherings and events, to pull together all of the resources required to grant life-changing experiences.

Every volunteer has his or her story that would make a great blog post (and I’m hoping a few will be inspired to submit their thoughts here), but I am going to write about one volunteer I had the pleasure of meeting last October.

A latecomer to Make-A-Wish

Each year, Make-A-Wish honors an individual connected with the organization who embodies the essence of an “indomitable spirit,” possessing the qualities of persistence, bravery, compassion, and integrity. It’s called the Lori Schultz-Betancourt Indomitable Spirit Award.

In October of 2013 the recipient of the award was a gentleman from South Carolina, Hugh O’Neill. And Hugh is a gentleman in every sense of the word.  He’s been a volunteer throughout his life, working on golf fundraisers for his employer, building benches for his church, and making visits to nursing homes. At the age of 75, Hugh began volunteering at Make-A-Wish South Carolina. He helped around the office and at events and, within a year, he was helping kids as their wish granter.

Volunteers rarely go it alone

Hugh is quick to acknowledge his wish-granting partner, Kelli Pellerin. They have been a team for six years. He recalls each wish with fond memories, from his first wish-granting experience – a basketball-loving, paraplegic teen who wished for a hand-pedaled racing tricycle – to his most recent visit to a wish kid’s home. “Every wish is a gift from God,” Hugh says.

South Carolina, Hugh O'Neill, Indomitable Spirit, Volunteers, Peter, PianoRussell Smith, the former president & CEO at Make-A-Wish South Carolina, presented Hugh with his award. In his introduction, Smith admitted, “I wanna be just like Hugh.” Smith then listed numerous qualities and values held by the volunteer from Taylors. Smith doubted many individuals have the energy to volunteer for Make-A-Wish “so late in life and still grant more than 75 wishes between his 75th and 85th birthday.”

In accepting the award, Hugh said, “Since I started in 2000 – actually ’99 is when Russell hired me for a volunteer job – I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

Hugh O’Neill will probably shake his head humbly when he reads this. He will be the first to acknowledge that his efforts are no different than any other volunteer who puts time and energy into talking with wish kids and working on ways to fund more wishes. I’m guessing most of our volunteers would make the same claim.

We are very fortunate as an organization to have so many wonderful volunteers who share the power of a wish®. Learn more about opportunities in your community.

About this Blog

Wish Nation gives you a behind-the-scenes look at Make-A-Wish®. See how wishes come together and how they change lives forever. Hear directly from those who work or volunteer here, or those who have been transformed by a wish. And learn why we are so committed to someday granting the wish of every eligible child, every year.

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1 Comment

Trish O'Connell

That's my dad. Retired and enjoying it. Loves the Peace Center. Make-A-Wish, you have him for life.

April 23, 2014 - 7:38 PM

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