Being diagnosed with leukemia at any time in your life is never easy. As a teenager it can turn your life upside down and take you away from friends, school and many other fun things. When I was diagnosed at 17 years old, it was a total shock. It led to months of hospital stays, endless clinic visits and years of disruption. While the nurses and doctors became our second family and made every moment as positive as possible, I still wanted nothing more than to get away from anything health care related. I truly could not wait to go college and put everything in the past.
When I was referred to Make-A-Wish, I dreamt of a trip to Paris, shopping or relaxing on a beach. My wish granter told us a story of another teenager who had just wished for money to help with college expenses. That sounded pretty impactful and my parents certainly didn't oppose either. My wish helped pay some first-year expenses when I went to college the next fall, but, in reality, it did so much more than just pay tuition. By the end of my freshman year, I changed my focus to a pre-nursing major and three years later graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Little did I know my wish would help me become a pediatric nurse, to work with patients who had similar stories to mine, and to help fuel a lifelong involvement with Make-A-Wish.
After college I met the volunteer manager for Make-A-Wish Eastern North Carolina at an event and instantly knew I wanted to get involved with the chapter as a volunteer wish granter. My love for Make-A-Wish has grown even more over the years. Being a wish granter is so rewarding and I love everything from meeting the kids to discover their wish to helping send them off in the most special ways possible. With everything I have experienced as a patient and pediatric nurse, it is incredible to provide hope and to see the impact a wish makes on kids with critical illnesses and their families. Being involved with Make-A-Wish has also brought me new challenges and adventures – including hiking 26.5 miles for the Trailblaze Challenge, fundraising for wishes and advocating and leading efforts through our Young Professional Network. I truly can't imagine not being involved with this organization!
When Dustin and I met more than five years ago, I was already a wish granter. He heard about the long nights I had working in the pediatric intensive care unit, but also got to hear about the kids I met through Make-A-Wish. I don't think there was any hesitation when I encouraged him to volunteer at Make-A-Wish with me about a year later. We love meeting each family and helping to create an unforgettable experience.
Having Dustin with me in every wish experience I have makes it all the more special, and helping to grant wishes definitely brings a lot of joy into our lives. When I hiked 26.5 miles for the Make-A-Wish Trailblaze Challenge last spring, Dustin not only helped me fundraise, he was also right there waiting at the finish line. What I love the most is for Dustin to get a glimpse into the lives of kids with critical illnesses and understand why I am so passionate about what we do. He has truly become one of the best advocates for Make-A-Wish, which always makes me smile.
Christina and Dustin with wish kid Wyatt, 3, who wished to go to the beach and see marine life.
When Dustin proposed last fall, of course I said, “Yes!” I am a strong believer that sharing experiences like this must be a key to a strong relationship, and a strong marriage. I hope that by sharing our story, other couples might realize how easy it is to get involved with Make-A-Wish, see what an incredible bond it can create and most importantly understand the impact it can have on every eligible child!
BECOME A WISH GRANTER! Make-A-Wish trains wish volunteers to help children identify their most heartfelt wish, and then bring the experience to life. Visit your local chapter’s website to learn more about its volunteer needs. FIND MY LOCAL CHAPTER
Show us some love this week by posting your favorite Make-A-Wish memories to Facebook or Twitter using #HugsAndWishes and #SpreadLove. Read the full “Hugs and Wishes” blog series here!