For the first few months, I floated on the warm and fuzzies. Each wish kid is going through such a difficult time and their families are with them every step of the way. Why shouldn’t we grant their truest wish? It will bring a little bit joy into their world of hospital visits, medical tests and worries that are coming their way all too soon.
Believe me, the warm and fuzzies have been great, but it wasn’t until I began to really learn the impact of a wish that I realized the significance of the work I get to do every single day. To share this impact, I am going to tell the story of Adam.
Finding Motivation in a Wish
In February of 2002, 18-year-old Adam was fortunate to have overcome a rare form of cancer. His wish was to ski with professional skier Shane McConkey and this wish was granted by Make-A-Wish Maine at Squaw Valley in Olympic Valley, Calif.
“I will never forget the incredible adrenaline surge I felt when I first met my skiing hero in front of the Cable Car at Squaw Valley,” said Adam, now 30. “Words like surreal and unbelievable don’t do enough justice to quantify how great it was to ski with Shane.”
After this experience, there was no question that Adam wanted to have a career connected to the winter action sports world. Shane and Adam stayed in touch over the years and Adam visited him and his family in 2004. Upon graduation from college in 2007, Shane and Adam exchanged emails and phone calls, which is how Adam learned of a job opening at Squaw Valley.
“Shane was not only instrumental in how he motivated me to continue to get healthy once I was in remission from cancer; he also helped me land a job at Squaw Valley and continued to amaze me with random days shared on the mountain,” said Adam.
Unfortunately, tragedy struck in March of 2009 when Shane was in a fatal ski accident at the Dolomite Mountains in Italy.
Passing the Care Along to Others
Following this devastating time, Adam channeled his passion for skiing into a positive means of giving back to the world. He joined the High Fives Nonprofit Foundation, an organization created in February of 2009 to raise money and awareness for athletes who have sustained life-altering injuries while pursuing their dreams in the winter action sports community. Four years later, Adam is serving full-time as its director of operations.
Adam still reflects on the fact that his wish from 12 years ago was the impetus for a special friendship with Shane and a building block to a practice of giving back to the community. In fact, if he were to title the story of what has happened to him over the past 12 years, he’d call it “Full Circle.”
The impact of a wish is incredibly strong, and I am learning each day what a lasting change these wishes make for our wish kids. I am fortunate to be able to do the work I do and to believe in it so completely. The truth is, most days my job is just like any other. I spend many hours at my desk, on my computer or on the phone. There are spreadsheets and multiple tabs open on my web browser and Post-It notes everywhere. I can very easily get caught up in my workday and my ever-expanding to-do list and forget about the end result of this work. Adam’s story, like so many others, reminds me that what I do here is more than just a to-do list. The end result of my job is pure wonder at what we can do for the kids we serve.
And for that, I am so very grateful.