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Volunteering: ‘It’s Simple, But It Stays with You for a Lifetime’

Emily wished to be a mermaid.
For some people, the ocean is a calming influence in times of stress. For wish kid Emily, 13, thoughts of floating lazily in calm, cool waters were often the only thing that would get her through long days in the hospital following one of her four surgeries to remove a large tumor in her brain.

“When I was having a hard time getting through life, when surgery was keeping me on the ground and making me feel like they were taking away pieces of me, I would think of the ocean and a world where I could float and drift in the water,” said Emily. “A world where I was just like a mermaid.”

Emily can’t say how long she has loved mermaids, since surgery to remove her tumor has taken away some of her earliest memories. “I’ve always been a good swimmer and loved the ocean,” she said. “But when I was 9 or 10 and had to get surgery to remove a tumor from my brain because it was too close to my arteries, I used the ocean to focus and to think of what I could do if I could get out of there.”

Volunteers Make Wishes Come True

When Emily learned she would be getting a wish, she was overwhelmed by all of the mermaid-related possibilities. “We were at Emily’s home for 2 ½ hours – much longer than a traditional wish,” said Madi Harrison, HR Coordinator at Make-A-Wish America and one of Emily’s wish granters. “We ate together, and she showed us this huge duffle bag of drawings she had made and the stories she had written and a bunch of mermaid drawings she had done.”

Since Make-A-Wish strives to show every eligible child that the impossible is possible, Emily ultimately wished to be a mermaid. “Her personality is what made the wish as amazing as it was,” Madi said. “She had a specific vision, from the color of her tail to the activities.”

Emily added, “My wish granters never said no and they helped me do some research and talked to me about what exactly I wanted.” She even found a website dedicated to mermaid culture in Texas.

Transforming Lives, One Wish at a Time

According to Emily, her wish experience really transformed her life.

“When I came home, I decided to change schools because I didn’t have a lot of nice people in my school before I left and when I was on my wish, everyone was so nice to me and to each other. It was so cool to see how they treated me like I was special. I wanted that feeling all the time and now I have lots of friends and people at my new school that make me feel the same as I did on my wish,” said Emily. “There is no way to choose a favorite part. It was so perfect.” See the highlights from Emily’s wish HERE!

Madi added, “That just shows the aftermath of what wishes can do. They can show children that they deserve the best in life and should just reach for it.”

Emily’s latest scans also showed that her tumor is completely gone, so she won’t have to worry another surgery might wipe the wish from her memory.

“My wish will be with me always, especially when I need to forget things. Now I have a specific place I can go in my mind to relax,” Emily said. “I know I will be a mermaid for the rest of my life.”

Emily’s wish encompasses many of the reasons Madi has been a passionate Make-A-Wish volunteer since 2016. “From an employee standpoint, it’s extremely impactful to go through the wish granting process because it makes your daily work more purposeful when you can see all the lines attach; when you can see an actual wish being granted,” Madi said. “On personal level, it’s something so simple and not very time-consuming, but it sticks with you for a lifetime. Each child changes your life. They say something or they do something that just stays with you and it makes you want to stay involved.”

Emily’s wish was granted by Make-A-Wish Arizona. Although the need for volunteers varies by chapter, opportunities can be found in every community. CLICK HERE to get involved with Make-A-Wish today.

The staff at Make-A-Wish Arizona contributed to this article.

About this Blog

Wish Nation gives you a behind-the-scenes look at Make-A-Wish®. See how wishes come together and how they change lives forever. Hear directly from those who work or volunteer here, or those who have been transformed by a wish. And learn why we are so committed to someday granting the wish of every eligible child, every year.

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