Hope is Part of the Job Description
Make-A-Wish Colorado's CEO weighs in on the effects of the pandemic, and how the organization will continue to grant wishes moving forward
When Scott Dishong took the helm as CEO for Make-A-Wish Colorado a little over a year ago, he knew it would be a big job.
Joan Mazak, who founded the nonprofit in 1983, had built an amazing organization with a stellar reputation during her 36 years as CEO. In fact, it was the nonprofit’s reputation that attracted Dishong, who previously served as Executive Director for the Mountain States region of the American Cancer Society. “I wasn’t looking for a new job, but when the search committee told me the organization was Make-A-Wish Colorado, it captured my attention,” stated Dishong.
The organization’s mission, which is to create life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses, compelled Dishong to accept the job in June 2019. As only the second CEO in the history of the organization, he was prepared to work hard to continue the legacy Mazak and her team created, to strengthen the already robust support of donors, partners and community members and to look for new ways to grant even more wishes. What he wasn’t prepared for was the emotional aspect of the job.
The first wish that Dishong attended was that of a young boy who wished to be a garbage truck driver. As he followed wish kid Sean around the city, Dishong was overwhelmed not just by the joy of Sean and his family but by the outpouring of support from everyone involved. “I was blown away by the many companies that donated their services and products, the volunteers and supporters who went to each garbage stop to cheer on Sean and all the employees—from firemen to restaurant and hotel workers to news media—that did something extra to bring joy to a little boy. I realized then that the wish impacted everyone involved—not just the wish kid,” recalls Dishong.
During the past year, Dishong has shed many happy tears and experienced even more euphoric moments as he’s seen and heard stories from children and families experiencing their one true wish. The COVID-19 pandemic quickly put a halt to those moments of joy—at least temporarily.
Make-A-Wish acted rapidly to postpone all travel wishes due to the medical complications of the children they serve. That soon turned to a delay of all wishes that involved any face-to-face interaction. “It’s heartbreaking to tell a child who is eagerly anticipating a wish after months or even years of pain and medical treatment that he or she needs to wait even longer,” says Dishong. From mid-March to mid-June, Make-A-Wish postponed the wishes of more than 70 children due to COVID-19.
Despite the challenges, the staff rallied. Even as they were taking in new referrals for children with wishes, they began working with waiting wish families who wanted to explore alternative ways to have their child’s wish granted. Wishes for shopping sprees became online shopping adventures, destination trip wishes were transformed into camper wishes to allow families to travel safely, and wishes for a quick meet-and-greet with a celebrity became in-depth and personal one-on-one video calls.
Even the families who have chosen to wait until their child’s wish can be safely granted have given Dishong and his staff hope. “I had one dad tell me that the wait would build the anticipation and give them more time to plan and dream about how wonderful their trip would be,” Dishong shared.
Moving forward, the team at Make-A-Wish Colorado is excited to begin granting more wishes. They’re also looking at new ways to engage their many supporters. With 70+ wishes on hold, new wishes coming in each day and some current wishes changing, the need for support is greater than ever. Opportunities to help support Make-A-Wish Colorado can be found below, and on the “Ways to Help” tab at www.Colorado.wish.org.
How you can support Make-A-Wish Colorado:
Offer a product or service. As Make-A-Wish seeks to create alternative wish experiences that are safe for vulnerable children, they need connections to new resources such as automobile and boat dealers, technology providers, mechanics and retail outlets. If you have a product or service that you’d like to donate, email email@example.com.
Participate in the Hope is Essential online auction, presented by Alpine Bank. Now more than ever, hope is essential. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Make-A-Wish Colorado’s annual Wish Night event will be replaced by an online auction this year. You can help to bring transformation to wish kids and their families by making a donation and/or participating in the online auction, open from Friday, August 7 through Sunday, August 16. To donate an item or service to the auction, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. To bid on auction items, visit wishes2020.givesmart.com.
Create a team or fundraiser for Walk For Wishes. This year, the family-friendly Walk For Wishes will be virtual with an online celebration planned for October 10th. To sign up or learn more information, visit walkforwishesco.org.
Donate airline miles. As soon as it is safely possible, Make-A-Wish Colorado hopes to expedite all the travel wishes that have been postponed. Click here to learn more about Wishes in Flight.