JOHNSON CITY, N.Y. -- BethAnn Kicsak became a Make-A-Wish® Central New York volunteer wish granter after attending her friend’s daughter’s reveal party. The girl had been diagnosed with cancer at the age of three and became a Wish Kid soon after.
“At the reveal party I just knew that was what I wanted to do,” Kicsak said.
Kicsak is a speech language pathologist from Johnson City with a husband of 28 years and five children. She has volunteered for Make-A-Wish Central New York for the past three years.
“I had been looking to do some volunteer activities, but nothing drew me in the way Make-A-Wish® did at the reveal party,” she said. “I watched that wish team and thought ‘they are bringing such joy to this little girl’ and I knew that I wanted to do the same thing. I was hooked.”
Kicsak explains that wish granters are memory makers; people who can create something so extremely special for the wish kids and their families that it will change their lives forever.
“When I go into a new family, I want to make a memory that no matter what the outcome of the illness is, they will remember the wish and feel that impact forever,” said Kicsak. “And if it is possible, I wish for that impact to touch other people outside of that family. That happens most of the time. It is so amazing and so powerful.”
Although she sometimes drives up to an hour to meet with a Wish Kid, Kicsak said she doesn’t mind.
“I try not to go that far, but sometimes the kids are waiting so long that I end up doing it,” she said.
Kicsak said she tends to get pretty attached to the children and is still in contact with many of them.
An inspired Kicsak described the experience she has had thus far as a wish granter. “I’m amazed at the strength of some of these families,” she said. “To let strangers come in and provide an opportunity for their child that they are not able to do has to be so hard as a parent. They have to have such strength and I’m always blown away.”
Kicsak said she is not only amazed with the wish families, she has also realized how many generous people there are. She is currently working on her tenth wish, a treehouse for Kalen, a wheelchair-bound 4-year-old with spinal muscular atrophy Type 2. Delta Engineers, Architects, and Land Surveyors, the local company working on the design, dove right in with the plans and with making arrangements for volunteers within the company. Kicsak was taken aback and found the entire experience so heartwarming.
“This tree house is going to be amazing,” she said. “It is so creative, and this little kid is over the top for this thing. Kalen’s smile when you talk about the tree house, it lights up the darkest areas.”
Kicsak encourages anyone thinking about volunteering for Make-A-Wish to connect with the organization.
“There will never be a regret about being a wish granter. Ever. You will enrich yourself so much, you will have a deeper appreciation for pretty much everything in your own life,” she said.
Make-A-Wish Central New York CEO and President Diane Kuppermann is positive that there is something within the organization that anyone can be passionate about. She urges anyone thinking about volunteering to give it a try.
“We cannot do what we do without volunteers,” she said. “They are the lifeline of the organization, they are absolutely essential.”
Wish granters are currently needed in Tioga, Chenango, and Ostego counties. Volunteer training sessions will be held in these areas in the early fall. If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering as a wish granter, please contact Volunteer and Community Outreach Manager Jennifer Snyder at firstname.lastname@example.org or (800)475-9474.
For more information about Make-A-Wish Central New York, visit www.cny.wish.org.
Photo Caption – Make-A-Wish volunteer wish granters BethAnn Kicsak (right) and Dorothy Beylo.