Tom Risner works with us at Federal Pizza and Postino Central. When he’s not busy being an awesome server, he volunteers with Make-A-Wish Foundation. He chatted with us about the organization, how wishes are granted, and how you can get involved!
How’d you get involved with Make-A-Wish Foundation?
When I was in school, I had an interview with Make-A-Wish for an internship but ended up accepting another position and really, really, regretted it. When I moved to Phoenix I found out that a friend of mine worked for the organization and I asked him if I could volunteer. It took a couple of years for him to take my request seriously but once the ball was rolling it was an easy process.
Is there a typical wish?
Nope! There are certain steps kids have to go through to get a wish but once they’re accepted the sky is the limit for them. They are accepted based on their health situation. I love Make-A-Wish because it really allows these kids to be kids! It’s my job as a wish granter to go and talk to the kid about what their wish is. They can truly have anything they want.
Do they normally have something in mind when you go?
Some kids you walk in and they say exactly what they want but sometimes you have to read between the lines and see what they are wishing for. For example, a kid might really love Buzz Lightyear! But rather than just saying “Okay we’ll send you to Disneyland to meet Buzz Lightyear” we dig a little deeper. Is it that they want to BE Buzz Lightyear or that they want to MEET Buzz Lightyear? Or maybe they like Buzz Lightyear because they really love space and want to go into space. You really want to focus on what the kid’s dream is because it’s THEIR dream, not yours. You have to be careful not to steer them in any particular direction and really listen to what they’re asking for!
What’s your favorite moment you’ve had so far with Make-A-Wish?
One of the coolest things that I’ve seen was with my first wish kid, which happened to be on World Wish Day. Every time I met this little boy he was on the couch and he couldn’t walk around and was confined to a wheelchair. His biggest wish was that he wanted to go outside and play so we took him and his family to the zoo for the day. When we were at the zoo he didn’t sit in his wheelchair the entire time. He made sure that he walked. I pushed his wheelchair around all day just in case he needed it and even though it was too small for me to comfortably push, I’d do it again any day because it was so amazing for him to NOT need it. At lunch he fell asleep on the table – just like face-down – but it was so important to him to just be able to walk. It was so cool to see that happen for him!
How often do you grant wishes?
There are some people that do it all the time. It’s really based on what’s going on and what you’re available to do. It is a volunteer position so you need to make sure you’re taking care of yourself so you can take care of your wish kid! Wishes can take anywhere from a month and a half to 6+ months depending on what it is. When you meet your wish kid you will have a lot of initial meetings to coordinate what the wish is and fill out all of the paperwork. Then the visits slow down for a while but you send little gifts, cards, etc. to let your kid know you’re still thinking of them and their wish. When you get closer to the wish grant date there is a lot of emailing and corresponding that goes into it. Then the big day arrives and you get to grant a wish!
How do we get involved?
Go to Arizona.Wish.Org. There are a TON of ways to get involved whether it’s volunteering or donating money or supplies. There really is a way for everyone to help out.