Area Make-A-Wish office hires new leadershipWritten by Amanda Tindall | | firstname.lastname@example.org
By making others’ wishes come true, two new members of the Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation are fulfilling one of their own — the wish to change lives.
Cherie Chatreau-Grifo, new senior development officer, and Doug Kelly, new president and CEO, expressed the enjoyment they get from seeing children’s wishes come true in through Make-A-Wish.
“I had no idea how much of an impact it can make,” Chatreau-Grifo said. “It doesn’t just change the child’s life. It changes the whole family. Mom and dad get a break. It’s covered financially, all the plans are made ahead of time for them. When they get there they’re treated like stars wherever they go. When they get back, they’re refreshed and the kid wants to continue his treatments now because he feels better, he’s happier.”
Chatreau-Grifo said this is different from any work she’s ever done, even though she’s always worked in the nonprofit area, previously with child protective services and then the Arthritis Foundation.
“Before, it was just like pulling teeth to get people to help,” Chatreau-Grifo said. “Here people just want to get involved. They want to help. You can see it. I was looking for something that would reignite my passion. I had a previous employer talk to me about it, and said this would be a great opportunity.”
Chatreau-Grifo’s job is to fundraise to ensure the wishes can be financially supported. Each wish is provided at no charge to the family — hotels, plane tickets and meals. Make-A-Wish makes all the plans, so the families can relax and take a break.
“Basically, I go out and let everyone in the community know what we do and why we do it, and then ask for money,” Chatreau-Grifo said. “I’m looking for people who want to support this. I just try to grant the funds for all the wishes that we get. Right now we have 68 wishes we’re working on in Northwest Ohio.”
Many of the wishes Make-A-Wish grants to children with [life-threatening medical conditions] include trips to Disney World, swims with dolphins or meeting a professional athlete. Chatreau-Grifo said the kids, ages 2 to 18, get more creative with their wishes when they’re older.
“The ones that really touch you the most are the ones who want to pay it forward,” Chatreau-Grifo said. “We had a girl in Cincinnati whose wish was to feed the hungry. She wanted them to have hot soup. They set up a meeting with chef Jean-Robert [de Cavel] and came up with a soup that they call Natalia’s Soup of Love. They served it at all the soup kitchens in Cincinnati, and I’m reaching out and we’re going to try to serve it here in Toledo at the Cherry Street Mission.”
Kelly said kids like Natalia and all the other wish kids are what inspire him in his job.
“There are many things that are inspirational about Make-A-Wish, but let’s just start with the kids that we serve. These are kids with life-threatening conditions, whether it be cancer or cystic fibrosis. These kids live, many times, in the climate of no: no friends, no sports, no playing outside. What we do is we say ‘yes’ to something they really, deeply want. Sometimes it’s building a man cave in their basement. Sometimes it’s a trip to Disneyland, but that yes is a very, very powerful thing.”
Kelly began a new job search after leaving electoral politics. When his brother died unexpectedly at 51, Kelly said he was motivated to do something bigger and more cause-driven.
“I wanted to do something that kind of moves the needle and makes a difference on a larger scale. I talked to my wife and started a six-month job search. I saw this listing for the president of Make-A-Wish, and I turned to my wife and said, ‘Yes! That’s what I want to do.’”
Kelly said he works with the board of directors, their team and others with a vision to see wishes granted, making Make-A-Wish in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana succeed as much as possible.
“One is to make sure we’re raising the money we need, that we have the vision the organization needs,” Kelly said. “That we’re keeping the talent onboard to make sure that we can achieve our mission, which is to grant the wishes of the kids with life-threatening illnesses. At the end of the day, that’s the CEO’s job.”
Kelly said Make-A-Wish grants about 800 wishes a year in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, and this year will be granting about 810. Those wishes are made possible through donations of both money and airline miles.
Kelly said the donations of frequent flyer miles are incredibly useful because about 75 percent of wishes require flights, and the miles never expire.
Kelly said 76 percent of the money used at Make-A-Wish goes to grant wishes. There are Make-A-Wish chapters in Toledo, Cincinnati, Louisville, Cleveland, Columbus and Indianapolis. If money is raised in Northwest Ohio, Kelly said, they keep that money in the area.
“We want people to understand that Make-A-Wish is a very local organization,” Kelly said. “You can become a volunteer on a local level. You can grant wishes in your community. Everyone who comes in contact with a wish comes away with a renewed sense of faith in humanity.
“I’ve been six months on the job, and it’s the greatest job I’ve ever had,” Kelly said.
For Chatreau-Grifo, that means money she raises in Northwest Ohio stays in Northwest Ohio. She said people can see how their money is affecting the lives of the children.
“At the end of the day, the thing that we’re really focused on is providing the wishes for these kids to give them hope, strength and joy,” Kelly said. “And everyone who comes in contact with that — you can never have too much hope in your life.”
Tags: CEO, Cherie Chatreau-Grifo, Cherry Street Mission, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Disney World, dolphins, Doug Kelly, Indiana, Indianapolis, Kentucky, Louisville, Make-A-Wish, northwest ohio, Ohio, president, pro athlete, senior development officer, Soup of Love