The Times West Virginian

January 16, 2014

Make-A-Wish volunteer opportunities available

By Kristen Talerico
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — The Greater Pennsylvania and West Virginia Make-A-Wish Foundation is seeking volunteers to donate their time and friendship to help with wish fulfillment.

Make-A-Wish Greater Pennsylvania and West Virginia is a nonprofit organization that grants wishes to children aged 2 1/2 to 18 with life-threatening medical conditions. The local chapter is one of the most active in the country, having fulfilled more than 15,000 wishes.

As members of “wish teams,” Make-A-Wish organizers said volunteers are an important component of fulfilling wishes — working together, the “wish team” meets with the wish child’s family, acts as a liaison between Make-A-Wish staff and the family, and aids in determining the most suitable wish for the child. Volunteers can also help at special events such as golf tournaments and walks.

Elizabeth Snyder, a Fairmont native, has devoted a tremendous amount of time to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and was first inspired to get involved because of a longtime friend.

“I lost a friend, Myles O’Dell, to cancer when I was in high school,” Snyder said. “Before he passed away, I watched him get a wish granted through Make-A-Wish. His wish recreated a happiness he and his mother had lost along his medical battle. It was one of the most inspiring and powerful things I have ever gotten to be a part of.”

Snyder added that granting a wish begins the moment you meet the child.

“When we first meet a wish kid we ask, ‘If you could go anywhere, have anything, be anything or meet anyone, what would it be?’ When they answer that question, a wish is born,” Snyder said.

Through the Make-A-Wish organization and volunteering, Snyder started her own student organization at West Virginia University called Wishmakers on Campus, volunteered at events and worked firsthand with wish kids and families, and interned at Make-A-Wish Greater PA/WV and Make-A-Wish America.

Most recently, Snyder got the chance to be a wish granter through the organization.

“Lauren Yates was my first wish kid, and I am blessed to have gotten assigned her wish,” Snyder said.

She said Yates was fighting bile-duct cancer and wished to go to Walt Disney World and become a Disney Princess with her best friend Bree. However, during her wish granting while at Disney World, Yates became ill and was unable to complete her wish.

“Volunteering for Make-A-Wish is one of the most rewarding experiences you could ever imagine,” Snyder said. “To be a part of recreating a happiness for a child who is up against a life-threatening medical condition is something too great for words.”

She mentioned that being a volunteer creates so much more than accomplishment and gratitude — it gives the feeling of contribution and change.

The next training session to become a Make-A-Wish volunteer will be at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 25, at Oglebay Resort and Conference Center in Wheeling. Attendance at one training session is mandatory for all interested individuals. Training will familiarize prospective volunteers with their duties to Make-A-Wish.

To register for the upcoming training or for more information, call 304-292-5600.

Email Kristen Talerico at ktalerico@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @KTalericoTWV.