Jason Maslan’s decision to become a Make-A-Wish volunteer happened on a “life-changing” night at a Make-A-Wish Ball; it was nothing short of a fairytale.
But the 41-year-old’s first encounter with Make-A-Wish was 29 years ago when he was diagnosed with cancer at age 13 and his hospital discussed the foundation with him. He doesn’t remember all the details but he does remember that the concept of Make-A-Wish was fairly new; the Illinois Chapter had only been around for four years before Jason had his wish granted.
“My wish was to go to the World Series in California, so I went in October of 1989, a local couple donated their tickets to the foundation,” Jason said. “I believe the California or San Francisco Make-A-Wish office was working with Chicago to coordinate.”
Jason said the experience is one he will remember forever.
“It was on the news, I was doing some interviews, and they had photographers at the game taking some pictures,” Jason said. “They covered expenses for me, my mom and my step-dad. Overall, the experience was great.”
Jason has carried those memories with him his entire life. The LaGrange resident is now a technology consultant at a global consulting and internal audit firm called Protiviti and he got to experience Make-A-Wish in a new way three years ago when the company purchased tickets for the Make-A-Wish Ball.
“They posted [the tickets] on our website and being a wish kid I thought it would be good to go, and going to the Wish Ball was really life-changing,” Jason recalled.
Talking to current wish kids and volunteers at the ball brought all his memories “back to the present.”
During the ball he also met Linda Parck, a senior gift officer at Make-A-Wish Illinois, who he said knew all about him and had a little gift prepared for him because he was a prior wish kid.
“We spoke for a long time at the ball itself and I contacted her shortly after and I said ‘I definitely want to give back and get involved,’” Jason said. “So then she connected me with who I needed to contact to do the training and all the onboarding and now I’m on my third wish and have granted the wishes of two kids.”
Jason has been a wish granter for two years now and from the two wishes he’s helped grant, he’s noticed that it’s been reassuring for the families to speak with a wish granter whose family was once in their shoes.
“There’s some connotation with Make-A-Wish that it’s a death sentence and that for the kids it’s their last wish and when I’m sitting there across the tables with the families and interacting with them I’m letting them know that I was a wish child and now look where I’m at,” Jason said. “It’s an experience to take the child and the family out of the moment and give them time to be a kid.”
Jason makes sure to talk to families about his own wish and how the experience was life-changing for him and it helps them get comfortable with the process. He says it has been “eye-opening” for families to hear him talk about his own experience.
Jason has enjoyed seeing the other side of wish granting and was even able to grant a wish for a co-worker’s child. Jason had no idea the family had applied for a wish but as soon as he saw a request for a wish granter and recognized the child’s first name and zip code he immediately replied and said he wanted to help grant the wish and made sure the parents were comfortable with it.
“They were very excited about it as well and it definitely made it even more personal,” he said. “Not only granting a wish for someone but granting a wish for someone that I know. It was definitely a stand out moment of the wishes I’ve done so far.”
Jason is currently helping grant his third wish and hopes to grant many more, but he also has other specific goals: he wants his company to become more involved with Make-A-Wish.
“I’m hoping to get us more involved with Make-A-Wish by either sponsoring things or getting more people volunteering,” Jason said. “That’s one of the things I’m going to work on over the next 6 – 12 months, getting our company more engaged in the overall program.”