Mary and Ken Gonyea
A little over eight years ago, my wife and I heard the words that you hope you never hear – especially when they are about your young child. “Your daughter Olivia has cancer,” they said. She was eight years old at the time. After nearly 10 months of chemo, several surgeries and difficult procedures, Olivia walked out of the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. We count our blessings every day.
Unless you have experienced this, it is hard to explain what goes through a parent’s mind when your child is battling a critical illness. There were so many dark, painful days during those 10 months. But, during those long months, we also met many wonderful people and organizations – one of them was Make-A-Wish.
Early on in Olivia’s treatment we were notified that Olivia and our family would be eligible for a wish. Quite honestly, for the rest of our stay at Roswell, that was one thing our entire family could look forward to. It provided hope and excitement throughout Olivia’s battle. For us, the key word was “hope.” She faced many tough times during her treatment, and we would tell her, “Just three more months and we can finalize plans for Disney World.” “Hang in there, just two more months until we get to go.”
We went on her wish to Disney World as a family, still to this day one of the most amazing weeks we’ve had. Our family will never forget it. We were apart from each other so much during those 10 months as Olivia was in and out of hospital. So, to be together as a family for an entire week, and to just enjoy her wish together - we will never forget that.
For a few years leading up to Olivia’s illness, I personally had been thinking about ways I could give back to the community. I really did not know what organization I wanted to donate my time to. When her illness struck, my plans to give back went on hold. During our experience with Olivia battling cancer, we met so many great people from different organizations that helped support our family. But, it became very clear to Mary and I where we wanted to donate our time. After our amazing experience with Olivia’s wish and seeing the positive impact it had, not just on Olivia, but all of us – it was so powerful.
About five years ago, Mary and I started volunteering for Make-A-Wish. We have worked at many fundraisers over the years and also became Wish Granters, which is probably the most rewarding thing we do for this wonderful organization. To sit with a wish kid and their family, and work with them to develop their wish is such a great feeling. We know firsthand what they have gone through, the emotions they are dealing with, and the power a wish can bring to them. As parents of a childhood cancer survivor, those experiences do come in handy. We love what we do for Make-A-Wish and look forward to supporting them for many years to come.
Kayla and Joe Stocking
Kayla and Joe are newlyweds trying to give back to their community together. The two married over the summer, and took the plunge into granting wishes together this year. They love trying new things and creating experiences together, and it seemed like the perfect step.
Kayla has been an active member of Make-A-Wish since 2013, starting her journey as an intern and has stayed on as a volunteer for just over four years. She volunteers at events, is a volunteer interviewer, and a wish granter! This year, she asked Joe to say “I do” in more ways then one – she asked him to grant wishes with her.
The two just took on their first wish, and they couldn’t be happier going through it together. This fun loving couple is sure to bring a lot of joy to the families they meet; they sure make us smile with their compassionate hearts and giving spirit!
“We love volunteering together because it makes the experience of granting a wish so much better with one another. I've loved my time volunteering for Make-A-Wish, and now, to get to share that with the person I love is extra special. Meeting wish children and their families together is something that we truly enjoy and cherish.”
Interested in becoming a volunteer? Learn more and sign up here. To help make more life-changing wishes like Olivia's come true, click here.