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Wish Blog

Volunteer Spotlight - Jake Ochroch

Aubrey Widmayer with her wish granters.
On an October day in 2004, 10-year-old Jake Ochroch was in his hometown of Philadelphia completely starstruck. He was meeting one of his heroes: Bruce Springsteen. Jake had just finished a tough year-long battle with cancer and he and his family, all of whom are big Springsteen fans, couldn’t wait to meet the musician on his Vote For Change Tour. The Make-A-Wish Philadelphia, Delaware and Susquehanna Valley chapter granted Jake the experience, and his Make-A-Wish journey didn’t end that night, it was just beginning.

Jake couldn’t help but stay involved with Make-A-Wish as a volunteer and wish granter.

“The wish was a really amazing silver lining in the middle of a particularly dark cloud,” Jake said. “I’ve been working with Make-A-Wish ever since, both with the Philadelphia branch and more recently when I moved here with the Illinois branch.”

The now 24-year-old Lincoln Park resident moved to Chicago in 2016 and brought his love for Make-A-Wish with him. He’s been a Make-A-Wish Illinois volunteer for nearly two years and became a wish granter late last year. After his battle with cancer, he wanted to become more involved in helping other kids who were in treatment, so he also volunteered with cancer research organizations.

“There’s a lot of really amazing cancer research foundations out there,” Jake said. “But at the end of the day, a lot of the research foundations don’t exactly help the kids who are in treatment right now and Make-A-Wish was a really amazing way to help out kids who were currently suffering, whereas the research foundations are hoping to prevent future kids from suffering in the first place, not that that’s not a valid cause as well.”

As both an event volunteer and wish granter, he’s enjoyed transitioning from attending events as a wish kid/wish alum to seeing how those events come together as a volunteer. Jake has been an integral part of several events including the 2017 and 2018 Wish Balls, The Chicagoland Association of Child Life Professionals Conference, and the 2018 Chicagoland Walk for Wishes. 

“Growing up I actually went to a lot of those events as a wish alum so it was really interesting to see all of the volunteer activity that goes into making events like that happen,” Jake said. “Also having studied finance, I know that having that much volunteer labor really helps the bottom line. At the end of the day, the less that goes into spending on the event the more that goes into sending kids on wishes.”

So far, Jake has helped grant one wish, and is in the process of helping grant a second. He says his first wish inspired him and led him to recall his own days as a wish kid.

“My first wish was with a really sweet girl, Aubrey, and her wish was to throw a party for all the kids who were being treated at Lurie Children’s Hospital,” Jake said. “That was really amazing, especially because I believe Aubrey was 8 at the time and when I was 10 I was not so considerate about the feelings and suffering of others.”

Jake has spent 14 years with Make-A-Wish and is looking forward to many more. He hopes to continue volunteering, granting wishes, and meeting inspiring people like Aubrey.

“I thought that was really impressive for an 8-year-old girl,” he said, “given one wish and having unlimited magical powers and she just wanted to make other people feel happy.”

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