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Congratulations to These Milestone Volunteers

Volunteers are critical to bringing the mission of Make-A-Wish to life across Illinois. This National Volunteer Week, we thank all of our nearly 1,700 volunteers for their service as they positively impact their communities in so many ways. This week is also a great time to recognize our longest-serving volunteers, many of whom helped to shape the organization we are today.

Nancy Elliott has been a volunteer for 30 years.

Nancy Elliott of Chicago followed her desire to help children in need when it led her to Make-A-Wish in 1988. During her 30 years as a Make-A-Wish volunteer, Nancy has helped out at several events and granted over 100 wishes and is still in contact with some wish families she met over 20 years ago. Nancy said being a volunteer at Make-A-Wish is “one of the most satisfying volunteer opportunities out there,” and encourages others to get involved. “Knowing you could help a child in need in any way is worth every ounce of effort,” she said.

Dawn Geras has been a volunteer for 30 years.

Dawn Geras of Chicago is one of Make-A-Wish Illinois’ first wish granters. During her 30 years with Make-A-Wish, Dawn has granted 100 wishes and is still in contact with some of her wish kids today. Dawn said she started volunteering at Make-A-Wish in 1988 because she saw it as “a wonderful opportunity to do wonderful things.” To those wondering if they should start volunteering, Dawn said, “Don’t hesitate! Not only does it make a difference to the wish family, but it makes a huge difference in your life, too.”

Cliff KroeterCliff Kroeter from Chicago has been a wish granter for Make-A-Wish Illinois since 1988. During his 30 years of dedicated service, he has helped grant more than 100 wishes.

Linda Parck has been a volunteer and staff member for 30 years.Linda Parck of Chicago began her work at Make-A-Wish Illinois as the organization’s first paid staff member in 1988. Because of this, she often had to do the work of an employee and a volunteer at once, granting wishes and attending events as well as working in the office. The organization has grown and changed during the 30 years Linda has been here, but she said she’s never even considered leaving, because, “It just feels like the right place to be.” Linda encouraged those considering volunteering at Make-A-Wish by saying, “You’ll receive more than you give in the relationships you’ll build, the people you’ll meet and the children you’ll help.”

Ron and Julienne Lentz have been volunteers for 25 years.Julienne Lentz and Ron Lentz of Naperville began volunteering for Make-A-Wish after seeing a television commercial for the organization. Julienne said she felt drawn to Make-A-Wish immediately, and soon after, she and her husband Ron became wish granters. During her 25 years with Make-A-Wish, Julienne has volunteered at many events and granted over 50 wishes. She said the children she’s helped and the families she’s met have transformed her life forever, and anyone considering becoming a Make-A-Wish volunteer should listen to a wish child’s story, because “if they saw the effect a wish can have on a child and their family, it would pull them to help in some way.”

During his 25 years as a Make-A-Wish volunteer, Ron has helped out at many events and granted more than 50 wishes for local children with critical illnesses and relishes playing Santa Claus to his wife's Mrs. Clause at hospital parties arranged by Make-A-Wish. While he knows he doesn’t have the power to take away the illnesses of the children he meets, Ron said, “We’re there to bring joy to their life in the midst of something hard. That’s the gratification I get from the job.”

Karen Abele has been a Make-A-Wish volunteer for 20 years.Karen Abele of Sterling said she’s kept volunteering for Make-A-Wish Illinois since 1998 because of one thing: the children. After the birth of her first child, Karen said she wanted to get into volunteer work. When she saw an ad in a newspaper for Make-A-Wish, her mind was made up. 20 years later, Karen has granted more than wishes and volunteered at a number of events for the organization. She said this work has been one of the most rewarding experiences of her life, and those who are considering becoming volunteers “will never be the same” if they do.

Jeff Blum has been a Make-A-Wish volunteer for 20 years.Jeff Blum from Loves Park was familiar with Make-A-Wish before he became a wish granter. He began volunteering for Make-A-Wish in 1998 after seeing an ad for a volunteer training session in his local newspaper, and he hasn’t looked back since. During his 20 years of dedicated service, Jeff has helped out at several events and helped grant more than 60 wishes. He said he’s stayed on as a volunteer this long because of his admiration for the organization’s mission, and because he’s witnessed first-hand the immeasurable impact of a wish. For those considering becoming Make-A-Wish volunteers, Jeff said, “Helping a sick child and their family have something to look forward to is a richly rewarding experience … Just being a small part of that will enrich your life.”

Gary Martin (photo not available) from Chicago began volunteering for Make-A-Wish in 1988. During his 20 years of dedicated service as a wish granter, he has granted more than 20 wishes.

Gwen Wasmuth (photo not available) from Lake Forest began volunteering with Make-A-Wish in 1998 because the organization’s mission resonated with her personally. During her 20 years of dedicated service, she has volunteered at a number of events and granted more than 20 wishes – all of which she said were “amazing” in their own ways. Gwen said she’s remained at Make-A-Wish for this long because of the children she’s helped and the overall experience she’s had with the organization. She encouraged those considering becoming Make-A-Wish volunteers by saying, “The kids really give more to you as a volunteer than you give to them.”

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