How You Can Help Make-A-Wish Provide Life-Changing Experiences

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Deb Cupp is a volunteer for Make-A-Wish.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation is dedicated to granting life-changing wishes to children with critical illnesses. Global Link Distribution and its employees in Elkhart are proud to support the Make-A-Wish Foundation in northern Indiana. If you’re interested in helping grant a child’s wish, contact the local chapter toll free at 877-872-2756.

By: Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky & Indiana + Global Link

Volunteering has the power to transform the lives of all of the individuals involved. Nowhere is that more true than at a nonprofit organization like Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky & Indiana.

The mission of Make-A-Wish is to provide life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses. That wouldn’t be possible without volunteers who help make phone calls, meet with families, solicit donations, and construct project wishes for children.

Deb Cupp has been a volunteer with the Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky & Indiana for 19 years. During her 9-to-5 she works for Global Link Distribution in customer service in the RV industry in northern Indiana — a distributor who sells screws, nuts, and bolts to the RV industry in order to assemble the vehicles. Volunteering is a personal passion that she wants everyone to be able to share.

A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

Cupp’s daughter, Mackenzie, is a Make-A-Wish recipient — she was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 6 years old. That was 21 years ago.

“Back then, Make-A-Wish was basically for the terminally ill,” Cupp says. “When they came into our room and told us that my daughter qualified for a wish I freaked out. Because I was afraid they [the doctors] weren’t telling me something that they should be telling me.”

Many don’t realize that Make-A-Wish is not a last wish organization. About 80% of wish kids beat their illness and live typical healthy lives. Once in adulthood, many wish kids tell Make-A-Wish that their wish marked a turning point in their road to treatment and recovery.

The wish of Cupp’s daughter was to travel to the Walt Disney World® Resort and visit with Mickey Mouse. Cupp also had two other boys at the time and they tried to convince Mackenzie to do all kinds of other things while they were there. But she only wanted to see Mickey.

The family scheduled their wish during Christmas and flew down to Disney. Make-A-Wish sends all immediate family members on wishes and allows extended family members to pay their own way in order to be a part of their loved one’s wish so Cupp’s parents and sister also came along to enjoy the experience.

“The line was, like, two-and-a-half hours to see Mickey. Make-A-Wish took us in the back door and my daughter spent 20 minutes with Mickey and that was, like, what she wanted — she was ready to go then,” Cupp says. “That was all she wanted, it didn’t matter about her brothers or anybody else.”

All told, though, the Cupp family stayed in Disney for seven days, and the entire family was cared for and everyone was treated like royalty through the entire experience.

“That’s what I tell my wish families: No matter what the wish child chooses, it’s a great experience for everybody,” Cupp adds. “Mom and dad can let their hair down, brothers and sisters can get the attention that they don’t get when their sibling goes to the hospital.”

Today, Mackenzie is a healthy 27-year-old mom with two boys of her own. Cupp says that to this day Mackenzie still talks about the experience she had at Disney. At the same time, she doesn’t recall much of her experience with leukemia at that age.

BEING A MAKE-A-WISH VOLUNTEER

After her experience with her daughter, Cupp knew that she wanted to help other families have the same uplifting experience her family had.

Her role as a volunteer for the foundation has changed a lot since she began in 2003, and the COVID-19 pandemic had a lot to do with that.

Before the pandemic, Cupp and other volunteers would go and visit families in person in a one-on-one situation to tell them their child will have their wish granted. These days her role as volunteer is to call or Facetime with a family and get to know them as best as she can on a personal level over the phone. At that point, she’s able to start the proceedings for their child’s wish.

Volunteers get a weekly list and are able to sign up for as many wish kids as they’d like. Cupp says that she regularly handles three to five wishes each week. When she first started volunteering, the average volunteer would meet with five kids total each year. In her time as a volunteer, she’s assisted with more than 200 wishes.

“That [making calls] may be a daily or weekly thing for me!” she says. “I always tell the rookie volunteers: ‘The bad day you think you had at work is not nearly as bad as what our families are going through with the kids and/or life in general.’ We all have bad days in life and when you’re going through life with a little person who shouldn’t be sick anyway, and you don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring — our bad days are nothing.”

Under normal conditions, a volunteer would start the wish and follow it to the end — they would do the necessary paperwork, send it to Indianapolis, and return for the wish -reveal/trip. Now, it’s been broken up into groups.

There are volunteers who will call and fill paperwork out and send it to Indianapolis. The next group of volunteers take it to the next level, whether that’s getting a limo or soliciting funds. The final group comes in and does the wish reveal, which could be a meal, a ribbon cutting ceremony, balloons at the airport, balloons in a limo, etc. Cupp says that it all depends on what a volunteer wants to do.

“There are all kinds of ways we can get people to work, depending on their personality,” Cupp says. “If you’re outgoing and good at talking to people, not necessarily face-to-face, or you’re outgoing and you can go to companies and ask for donations and discounts — we need those kinds of people a lot. People who know people are always good, too. If you have a large network who can make things happen, we need that, too.”

Most calls to families only take about 10 minutes out of a person’s day. For Cupp, though, it takes a little longer because she shares her story with them.

“I always tell my wish kids I want them to reach for the stars. Reach for the stars, pick out 15, 20, 45 wishes, whatever, and I’ll bring you back down to reality and let you know what we can do,” she says. “But it makes them think outside the box of being in a hospital bed or at home sick because they can’t go out with their friends.”

WHAT A MAKE-A-WISH VOLUNTEER LOOKS LIKE

There are volunteer positions available at Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky & Indiana no matter what type of person you are.

If you’re an outgoing person, you can help make calls and get paperwork started for families, as well as give them ideas of what kind of wishes to make.

If you’re a handy person who may be more introverted, you can lend your skills to helping build a treehouse, help to redo a room, or take someone on a shopping spree.

“If I were a millionaire, my money would be spent on all of the kids who are sick. I’m not a millionaire, so that’s why I volunteer,” Cupp says. “I can put a smile on that person’s face and still get them something that I know they would enjoy. Because it meant so much to my family when Make-A-Wish did it for us.”

To volunteer, visit the volunteer page for Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky & Indiana. Donations are also accepted to help them continue to provide life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses.

You can help make more wishes come true for children in northern and northwestern Indiana. Help restore hope with a wish today! To learn more, visit the website for Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky & Indiana.

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