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Volunteer Spotlight

Volunteer Spotlight: Rossy Rodriguez

“Your wish has been granted!” That is my favorite thing to say at a wish reveal!

I have been a wish granter in Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley area since 2015. I often get asked if the reason I volunteer for Make-A-Wish is because I received a wish as a child or if I personally knew a child that received a wish. No and no. I volunteer because it is my life purpose to make a positive impact on others’ lives; by granting wishes to children in the area, I am fulfilling my purpose.  However, volunteering also enriches my life. I have had the privilege of meeting so many great families and wish kids in the area. As much as a wish is impacting their lives, these families and children are impacting mine.

Each wish reveal I have been a part of is always different from the one before and from the one after.  Every kid is so unique, that not every wish reveal can be the same. I recently had a wish reveal for a child where instead of saying “Your wish had been granted!” we said it Spanish: “Se ay completado tu deseo!” The family turned on some music and made food for everyone. This wish reveal turned into a true fiesta!  All that mattered in the end was that the wish kid was happy.  The wish kid would tell me every five minutes “Thank you so much!” or “I really love this party!” Hearing that, made me melt. I had impacted this child in such a positive way.  The way I impacted him, he also impacted my life. Every wish kid, I have meet has impacted my life. They have taught me to be selfless and to never take a moment for granted.

As much as I love to grant wishes, I also love to be an advocate for Make-A-Wish. I am always talking to someone about the organization, at work or at home. My husband always teases me that Make-A-Wish is my second job. 

I encourage you to give back to Make-A-Wish. Granting a wish cannot be done without your help. It has been statically proven that a Make-A-Wish experience can help the child cope with or overcome their critical illness.

Wish granting is life transforming experience. It is the child’s and family’s moment to forget they have a critical illness. They can look forward to this because it will only bring them closer together. They can stop counting down how many chemo treatments they have left and start counting down to how many days are left until their wish trip! 

  • Make-A-Wish volunteer Rossy gets a hug from a wish kid

I volunteer because it is my life purpose to make a positive impact on others’ lives... However, volunteering also enriches my life. I have had the privilege of meeting so many great families and wish kids in the area. As much as a wish is impacting their lives, these families and children are impacting mine. ”

— Rossy Rodriguez, Make-A-Wish volunteer

Volunteer Highlight: Anne Marie Sands

Anne Marie Sands pays it forward by volunteering as a wish granter after her daughter, Kaylynn, received her wish in 2015. Sands is from Magnolia, Arkansas and likes to spend her free time volunteering and enjoying time with her family.

Make-A-Wish granted Kaylynn, Sands’ youngest daughter, a wish after her diagnosis with a Ganglioneuroblastoma. Kaylynn’s wish was to go to Walt Disney World Resort to meet all the princesses. Make-A-Wish made Kaylynn’s wish come true and the Sands family has been healthy and happy ever since. “Make-A-Wish means joy to our family,” said Sands.

“The trip to Walt Disney World was really a way for all of us to take a step back and not have to worry about anything, the staff at Make-A-Wish take care of everything,” Sands said.

Since she attended volunteer training, Sands has been a part of many wishes and participated in other events and fundraisers. “I know what it’s like to be a parent of a child with a life-threatening illness,” she said. “There will never be anything better than the memories that Make-A-Wish has helped us to create.”

Anne Marie Sands has made a tremendous impact on the lives of many people through Make-A-Wish Mid-South and it’s a joy to have her as a part of the Make-A-Wish Mid-South family.
  • Volunteer Anne Marie Sands celebrates at a wish reveal

Make-A-Wish is an incredible thing for families to be able to have a little bit of an escape from the medical treatments and enjoy time together as a family. ”

— Anne Marie Sands, Make-A-Wish volunteer

Volunteer Spotlight: Sarah Keffer

Make-A-Wish Mid-South volunteer Sarah Keffer was the 2017 recipient of the chapter's Volunteer of the Year award. She's a committed, enthusiastic and invaluable wish granter. Below Sarah shares her path to volunteering as a wish granter and why it hits home for she and her family.

In December of 2005, my daughter Jordi was diagnosed with leukemia. We knew someone who volunteered with Make-A-Wish and they were excited about the possibility of Jordi getting a wish. She wished for a Caribbean Cruise.

We looked forward to the end of her treatment so that we could embark on her wish trip. She had a rough treatment and that goal gave us light at the end of the tunnel.
When we arrived at the airport, there was a Make-A-Wish airport greeter that met us at the ticket counter and escorted us through the airport until we got on the plane. We were seasoned flyers but he was great company and encouragement.

Years later, I received an email saying that Make-A-Wish Mid-South was in need of airport greeter and I thought, “I can do that!” Years later, I still remembered how much that mean to me. With my schedule, I can only help families for weekend trips but it is so much fun to stay with the families through the airport and see them get on the plane. Every wish child so far has asked me if I am going with them!

A few years ago, my youngest daughter, Ashli, wanted to do wish granting training and wanted to have a partner so I agreed to do it with her but told her I would only do wishes with her. She reminds me of that all the time. Once we went through the training and I saw how easy it was to grant wishes I was hooked.

My girls are now grown and married and gone so I have a lot more free time on my hands to volunteer with an organization that was so beneficial to me and my family. I also love picking out gifts for people and surprising them with good news- so volunteering with Make-A-Wish is a perfect fit for me! I can't stand to look at the online volunteer grid and see a wish child has been waiting for their first wish visit for two or three months.

  • Sarah Keffer accepting her Volunteer of the Year award

There are very few organizations where you can make such an impact with such a small investment of time. ”

— Sarah Keffer, volunteer

Volunteer spotlight: Tonya Mitchner

Tonya Mitchner is a native of Pine Bluff, Arkansas. She and her husband Terence have three beautiful girls.

She studied nursing at Southeast Arkansas College and has gone on to own Jack & Jill Funzone Family Entertainment Facility and also Preppy Chicks Boutique.

Tonya loves serving her community by volunteering as a Make-A-Wish Mid-South wish granter and member of the Young Professionals group. She also spends time serving at Arkansas Children’s Hospital Circle of Friends, is a former member of the Junior League of Pine Bluff and participates as a member of Full Counsel Christian Church in Pine Bluff.

When she’s not busy pouring into the community, Tonya loves spending time with her family and taking trips to the beach. It’s no surprise that she’s constantly putting smiles on the faces of people she comes in contact with.

Tonya was sold on Make-A-Wish Mid-South when she saw Trey, one of her recent wish kids, and his family overjoyed by the care and generosity from Make-A-Wish at his wish reveal. She said it was awesome to see Trey and his mother’s nonstop excitement and energy as they rushed from game to game at Dave and Busters during the wish reveal party. On Trey’s shopping spree, he was so excited that Tonya she actually had to run to catch up with him. She loved every moment of it and can’t wait to grant more wishes to Mid-South children.
  • Wish granter Tonya reveals to Trey that his wish to go on a shopping spree has been granted!

Volunteer Spotlight: Elizabeth Colhoun

Elizabeth Colhoun grew up in the small town of Holly Springs, Mississippi with her mom, dad, and sister. Now she lives in Memphis, TN. She also has two adorable pets, Mack and Rosie. She graduated from Mississippi State University and loves her Bulldogs! Along with being a Make-A-Wish Volunteer, Colhoun is actively involved with St. Jude and Target House.

“All three of these wonderful and deserving charities have taught me how important life can be and to never take one day for granted,” said Colhoun.

Colhoun also shares her heart of service with her home church, Colonial Park Methodist Church, the Children’s Library and Young Adult Group.

She began volunteering with Make-A-Wish in 2013 as a Wish Granter. “I wanted to be more involved in helping to make a child’s wish come true so I jumped at the opportunity to volunteer,” said Colhoun. 

She has helped coordinate more than 20 wishes since first coming on as a Make-A-Wish Mid-South volunteer.

Her favorite wish moment happened just recently while volunteering on Gayatri’s wish. She knew Gayatri from her time at St. Jude. Gayatri was treated like royalty at the Peabody before having the opportunity to make desserts with her family and receiving her wish to have a touchscreen laptop. Her night ended with a horse drawn carriage ride downtown. Gayatri is now happily cancer free!

“I have always had a special place in my heart for children and wanted to be involved with these lasting memories. Sometimes the hardest times in our lives can bring the biggest joy and outcome. I hope my involvement with Make-A-Wish has a positive impact on these remarkable children and families. I am a better person by each Wish Child and family I have met,” said Colhoun.

If Colhoun could have one wish, it would be to go Walt Disney World Resort! She has not been since she was a little girl and does not remember much of her trip. She said she’d love to experience the magic of Disney as an adult and see the world through a child’s eyes.

  • Elizabeth Colhoun

  • Elizabeth Colhoun

  • Elizabeth Colhoun

  • Elizabeth Colhoun

  • Elizabeth Colhoun

I am a better person because of each wish child and family I have met. ”

— Elizabeth Colhoun

Volunteer Spotlight: Kelli Collins

Kelli was born and raised in Dardanelle, and she’s now entering her sophomore year at the University of Central Arkansas. Studying biology with an emphasis in dentistry, Kelli one day hopes to be a pediatric dentist.

She loves children and dreams to make a difference in their lives. During her free time she loves outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming, and fishing, but she also enjoys sitting down with a good book or painting. Kelli speaks intermediate Spanish, loves crafting, and loves Disney!

Kelli competed in the Miss. Arkansas 2016 competition as Miss. Greater Jacksonville. She won Miss. Congeniality and the Combs “Caught-Ya” award, given to the most selfless contestant. With Make-A-Wish as her platform, she was able to share the organization’s mission and her volunteer work on-stage and with other contestants and judges.

Kelli’s involvement with Make-A-Wish started with fundraising in the eighth grade. She was so excited to finally become a wish granter in January 2016. She has helped in granting five wishes thus far and is ready for more! Her favorite wish moment was Keegan’s wish reveal. She said, “The room was full of people he loved. He had no idea he was going to get his wish granted, and the look on his face said it all. I have never seen anyone as happy as he was.”

When asked why she volunteers Kelli said, “I started volunteering because I saw the difference Make-A-Wish was truly making in families across the world. For a time period, families can have a sense of normalcy, without doctor appointments, needles, and nurses, and spend time with their families. I knew I wanted to change lives, but in the long run this organization has changed me.”

Kelli’s advice for other volunteers is to dive in! Go the extra mile to make a difference in your community. Make-A-Wish is a game-changer for these children and their families.  Make sure to remember that you are changing lives through everything you do or say.

If Kelli could have one wish, it would be to go on a shopping spree to the Mall of America!

  • Volunteer Spotlight: Kelli Collins

  • Volunteer spotlight: Kelli Collins

I knew I wanted to change lives, but in the long run this organization has changed me. ”

— Kelli Collins

Volunteer Spotlight: Lora Moore

I am a Tennessee native, originally from Memphis before moving to Hardeman County as a teenager.  My husband, Mike and I live in Bolivar with our three dogs named Chester, Macy & Riley.  I have two sons, Clint and his wife, Terri of New Albany, MS & Drew of Huntsville, AL.  I have four granddaughters, Lacy, Kaycee, Linzi & Cameron of New Albany, MS. I am Vice President/Branch Manager @ First South Bank in Bolivar, TN.  In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with family, reading, outdoors, swimming, concerts, walking, and recently began running in 5Ks. 

I began volunteering as a wish granter with Make-A-Wish in 2008 and have enjoyed every wish that I have worked on.  I have met so many wonderful people throughout my experiences.  My favorite part would have to be the reveals.  The smiles on the face of the wish kid and their family at the reveal is indescribable.     

I chose to volunteer for Make-A-Wish because I knew a very sick little girl, who was a wish kid several years ago.  It was amazing to see her smile after she had been so sick for so long.   I didn’t realize there were volunteer opportunities with the organization until I saw the representatives set up at an event years later.  It didn’t take much to encourage me, I felt honored to be offered the opportunity. 

My best piece of advice for new volunteers is to relax and experience each wish because they are all so special.   Make-A-Wish has the best people to work with and everyone will go the extra mile to assist you. Partnering up with another volunteer works great too!

If I could have one wish granted I would love to travel outside the continental US, and my first choice would be Hawaii.

Make-A-Wish has the best people to work with and everyone will go the extra mile to assist you. ”

— Lora

Volunteer Spotlight: Donna Johnson

"Meeting the families puts my life in perspective."

Born in Memphis, and growing up in Collierville, Donna is the youngest daughter of nine children and has an identical twin who lives in Rhode Island.  She is married to Wes (also a volunteer) with two children, Nicole, 26 and Cameron, 14. Wes and Donna also have a four-year-old grandson named Tobin.  When Donna is not doing the job she loves, which is a BI Developer in the Healthcare industry, she is an avid outdoors person.  From spring to fall, her family makes frequent weekend trips to rivers, lakes and state parks.  Donna loves to hike, watch wildlife and canoe. Donna has been a volunteer since December 2009 and took her first wish that same month.  She has enjoyed herself so much, that she said it seems she has been a volunteer longer than 4 1/2 years! When asked what inspired her to volunteer, Donna states, “At first, I was advised to volunteer during a period of layoff as it looked good on the resume to potential employers.  I reached out to several organizations but it was Anne Taylor's (former Volunteer Coordinator and current volunteer) response that motivated me most.  After my first wish and seeing the joy on Ian's face and his parents as they found out he was getting his wish to go to Sea World, I was hooked. Donna’s favorite part of volunteering is meeting and visiting with the wish children and their families. “They are such an interesting and diverse bunch,” Donna states, “plus the strength and resilience in both children and parents is inspiring for me.” Donna also volunteers for Habitat for Humanity, Mid-South Transplant Foundation and GiveCamp Memphis which donates IT services to local Not For Profit/Charity/Non-Profit organizations.  When asked how volunteering for Make-A-Wish Mid-South made an impact on her life, Donna had this to say, “Meeting the Families and hearing their stories puts my life in perspective.  My children are healthy and I know I have been blessed.  Both my children have assisted in various ways when I am either working a wish or volunteering for an event and seeing how much the Wish Children endure helps them also to be grateful for the gift of health they received.  I have also had the deepest pleasure of meeting some seriously inspiring volunteers with stories of their own.  It seems everywhere you look in the Make-A-Wish environment, there is inspiration to be found.” If Donna could have one wish she would wish to go to the Grand Canyon and raft down the Colorado river. Donna said her favorite wish-related memory is Katie, who received a service dog. “Like all the children, she was so happy to see us and even though she was non-verbal, she communicated so clearly her wish to have a dog.  It took a very long time for that wish to be granted, but the look of pure joy on her face and the tears in her Parent's eyes when the dog was brought out made the wait worth it.  Katie's beautiful smile still shines in my memory as the brightest.” 

The strength and resilience in both children and parents is inspiring for me ”

— Donna, Volunteer

Volunteer Spotlight: Gina Quattlebaum

Wish Granter
Event Volunteer
Speaker's Bureau

Gina, who has been a Make-A-Wish volunteer for eight years, is a mom to two amazing sons, Brandon and Carson. She also has a black lab, Rudy, who is sometimes her favorite child. Summer is her favorite time of the year, because she loves to be outside being active and doing yard work. Gina loves to laugh and smile. She has a wonderful family and supportive friends.  When asked what her favorite thing about being a Make-A-Wish volunteer is, Gina said, “After every wish my heart is always so full and I feel so honored that I get the opportunity to meet these children and their families.” A unique wish experience that Gina had was with a young man, who she found to be so happy and at peace, considering all the treatments and pain  he had to undergo. His wish was to go on a shopping spree and one of their stops was Best Buy. While they were walking around the store, customers would stop to give him money so that he could purchase additional items. Gina describes the experience as being heartwarming to see random acts of kindness and generosity.  This young man taught her so much in such a short time and she says she will forever be grateful. Among being a Make-A-Wish volunteer, Gina is also active in her Cabot Community. She is a member of the Ambassador Committee with the Cabot Chamber of Commerce, a Junior Auxiliary, Kiwanis  and a part of the History Makes team and Grace Fellowship.

After every wish my heart is always so full and I feel so honored that I get the opportunity to meet these children and their families. ”

— Gina

Volunteer Spotlight: Makenzie Moore

Makenzie was raised in Harrison, AR but moved to Conway to attend the University of Central Arkansas. For the past 10 months she has been working for Hewlett-Packard in Conway, but will be returning to UCA in the fall to obtain a Masters of Arts in Teaching. Makenzie has been involved with Make-A-Wish Mid-South for about 8 years. She started out as a member of the Kids for Wish Kids group at her high school where she helped raise money to grant wishes in her local community. Later on, she started volunteering at different events, speaking to elementary classrooms and civic organizations, and now serves as a Wish Granter. Her favorite thing about volunteering is seeing a child's face light up when their wish is being granted. She is always so humbled and grateful to have the opportunity to put a smile on the faces of these incredible families. If she could have a wish granted, her wish would be to have a family getaway with her parents and sister. Her parents live in Michigan and her sister lives in Pennsylvania. Her piece of advice for new volunteers is to truly give every wish your all!

Make-A-Wish® Mid-South
1780 Moriah Woods Blvd.
Suite 10
Memphis, TN 38117
(901) 680-9474
Toll Free (800) 264-9474
Make-A-Wish® Mid-South, Arkansas Office
320 Executive Court
Suite 101
Little Rock, AR 72205
(501) 376-9474
Toll Free (888) 376-9474
Make-A-Wish® Mid-South, Northwest Arkansas Office
One West Mountain
Suite 108
Fayetteville, AR 72701
(479) 755-4524
Wish Referrals (501) 376-9474