Make-A-Wish Australia Wollongong Volunteer Branch turns 10 on Monday and its 21 volunteers plan to celebrate by recalling many of the life-changing wishes they have been involved in granting.
The volunteers of all ages help create joy and happiness at a time when it's needed most for children and their families.
Make-A-Wish Wollongong Volunteer Branch president James Petrovic said it was great to be part of an organisation that makes dreams happen for children who are very ill or have a disability.
Mr Petrovic said every child and wish is different and so is the process of making that special moment happen.
"It is like a whole production that includes an anticipation and lead up phase to the wish," he said.
After learning about someone who could benefit from a wish volunteers meet the sick child and their family. They then brainstorm and put forward ideas to head office in Melbourne.
Mr Petrovic only joined in September but has already heard some beautiful stories about wishes granted. He said they range from a young girl wanting to meet a Disney princess to a boy wanting to be the Australian cricket captain.
Marilyn Ford is a founding volunteer aware of many of wishes granted to Illawarra children over the last decade.
"We had someone recently who wanted to meet Roger Federer at the Australian Open. One child wanted to see turtles being born which took a little while because it only happens at a certain time of year. In March it went ahead at a marine park in Queensland. Another boy wanted to see an ugly fish and was taken to Ningaloo Reef where he ended up swimming with the whale sharks".
Mrs Ford recalled one girl who always wanted a dog receiving a puppy. "She was over the moon about that. Some are great big wishes while others a small like wanting a cubby house in the backyard. Another little girl who loved farm animals got to go and spend a week on a farm near Armidale.and had the time of her life".
Mrs Ford said it was wonderful to be there and witness the wish being realised and the glow of happiness and excitement on a child's face.
She said when Make-A-Wish visits a family to meet a child the main rule is to make the wish what the child wants. "We spend a fair bit of time with them drawing out all their interests and then we send all the information to the Melbourne office where we have 'wish designers' who look into how to make it happen".
Mr Petrovic said for Mrs Ford and Irene Murray to still be involved in granting wishes 10 years after the Wollongong branch started on July 6, 2010 was cause for celebration. And anyone inspired to become a volunteer can contact the national headquarters in Melbourne.
Mr Petrovic started his career in the Navy, now works for the State Government and participates outside work hours. Some volunteers are university students and other people get involved when they retire.
"There are few experiences more powerful than helping make a wish come true," Mr Petrovic said.
Volunteers not only support families going through a wish journey, they also raise funds and awareness.
Mrs Ford said without fundraising Make-A-Wish would not be able to grant many wishes. It is hard during COVID-19 so donations are very welcome. She said Make-A-Wish was not as well known in the Illawarra as other charities and hoped the 10th anniversary would help raise awareness.
Mrs Ford said the anticipation of a wish and having something to hang onto was so important to many children stuck at home or in hospital. But sadly some families don't think their child would be entitled to a wish.
Mrs Murray said the local volunteers would really like to reach more children in the Illawarra who would really love a wish.
Mr Petrovic said he decided to get involved because he likes helping people and his family has a history of serving the community.
His great great uncle was Sir Philip Oakley Fysh who was part of the first Australian Parliament and was the Premier of Tasmania for two terms.
"He was a representative of his colony at the 1891 and 1897 conventions, and was a member of the Australian delegation to London to assist the passage and watch the passing of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Bill through the British Parliament. His first cousin was Sir Hudson Fysh who was a cofounder of Qantas".
Mr Petrovic is the father of two children and wants them to see there is more to life than just financial compensation for work. He said it was also about giving back.
"Last year I took my daughter to the Marco Polo nursing home and we just sat down with a couple of the elderly residents and asked them about their life stories," he said
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