A smile lights up Theresa Priddle’s face as she remembers when her sister, Amy Jeffers, texted her almost three years ago to ask if she wanted to pursue being a wish granter for Make-A-Wish.
“I had no idea this was a thing. I didn’t know you could grant somebody’s wish. How cool is that?” Priddle said.
As it turns out, it’s pretty cool, not just for the kids, but for the wish granters too.
“We both knew kids who have benefitted from Make-A-Wish,” Jeffers said. “It’s not a corporation that gets kids in, then ends up treating people terribly. We knew they had great experiences.”
Jeffers, of Hillsboro, and Priddle, of Litchfield, have helped grant six wishes so far, with another one currently in the works. Those wishes have taken kiddos and their families to Hawaii, New York and Disney World, with a young man in Greenville opting to stay closer to home with a wish to have his car customized.
“I think our most unique reveal was Quinton,” Priddle said of the Greenville wish. “When it was all done, we sent him on a scavenger hunt that day and it brought him to a little gathering of his friends and family and he got to pull up in his new car.”
For the wish granters, the reveal is sometimes the best part as they get to see the excitement on the family’s faces. Jeffers said that Make-A-Wish doesn’t have strict guidelines on how the wish is revealed and the sisters spend a lot of time scouring Pintrest to come up with ideas to make the day as special as possible for their wish kids.
The generosity of others also helps with the reveal. For their first wish kid, Asher, the restaurant and arcade Dave and Busters provided the family a party room, buffet and game cards for Asher and his siblings.
“Even that alone was special,” Priddle said. “There are so many businesses that support Make-A-Wish.”
The sisters have utilized local connections for other reveals. Miss Montgomery County Brielle Marten transformed into Cinderella, while Miss Macoupin County Maya Marcacci joined her as Belle from Beauty and the Beast for Riah’s Disney wish reveal. Brittain’s Princess Parties helped Braylee celebrate her Disney trip as well with a visit from the Ice Queen and Ice Princess.
But before the reveal, wish granters must first figure out what the perfect wish is for their youngster. Jeffers and Priddle, who filled out an extensive application and went through training in Springfield to be wish granters, will meet with the families sometimes multiple times to find out what the perfect experience for that child will be.
“We always tell our kids to dream big. For once in your life, nobody is going to tell you no. There are so many possibilities, so use it to your advantage,” Jeffers said. “We’ve had two or three incredibly shy kids, that by the end of it, are talking and playing and that part of it I love. I love getting to know them a little more so they’re more comfortable with us.”
For their first wish, the sisters worked with a mentor, who helped them with the ins and outs of the process. One of seven children in a military family from O’Fallon, Asher’s wish was to go to Hawaii for Christmas with his entire family. Like with any firsts, there were a few jitters for Jeffers and Priddle, especially after Asher’s mom forgot to bring her phone on the trip.
“We weren’t getting updates throughout the trip, but then they got back and she said, ‘I forgot my phone, but it was great!’” Jeffers remembers.
“How long would have Asher’s family had to save to take them all to Hawaii? That was probably never going to be a realistic thing for them,” Priddle said. “And they get to experience this thing they’ve always dreamt about, but didn’t think would come true.”
One of the requirements for each wish family is medical clearance from the child’s doctor. Asher, who is battling a heart issue, was required to be close to a hospital capable of caring for him if something happened. While the wish granters make sure all of the ducks are in a row, Jeffers and Priddle leave the medical restrictions up to others and focus on making the trip as memorable as possible for the kids.
“We both have been paramedics for a long time, so our experience with sick kids has been scary and very serious,” Jeffers explained.
“Now we get to hang out with them and someone else is taking care of their medical needs. We just get to have fun.”
And the fun and passion that Jeffers and Priddle have for wish granting shows. The sisters keep up with the families once their wish trips are done, or as Jeffers says with a smile, “Theresa collects littles.”
“Theresa and Amy were fabulous to work with. From the first phone call with them to our daughter’s send off party, they brought so much joy to our journey,” Amanda Frankford said of her daughter Braylee’s Make-A-Wish experience. “Our trip was nothing short of magical. A worry free trip with no interruptions for our family was more than we could have ever dreamed of. The happiness that experience brought to each of us is something we will remember forever. Braylee loved Theresa and Amy so much that she insisted we bring a gift back for each of them.”
The sisters also made an impact on Frankford, who was motivated to become a wish granter herself.
“Make-A-Wish brings so much happiness to children and their families and it is an amazing organization that does not get as much attention as it should,” Frankford said.
And Jeffers and Priddle hope that they can inspire others to join up too.
“We would love to see more people from around here do it. We did three or four at once, but you want to be able to focus on what you’re doing. There are a lot of families out there that need this,” Priddle said.
The sisters were planning to host an informal get-together at Coffee Xpresso earlier this year to provide information to those who might be interested in becoming wish granters, but COVID-19 cancelled those plans for the time being.
Still, both Priddle and Jeffers said they would be more than glad to talk to anyone with questions on Make-A-Wish, whether they are interested in being a wish granter or have a child who might be a candidate for a wish.
“For the longest time I thought Make-A-Wish was just for kids with cancer,” Priddle said. “I didn’t know that it was for any child with a serious condition.”
“As long as you meet the criteria, they don’t turn any kid down,” Jeffers added.
For anyone considering becoming a wish granter, Priddle borrows some advice from another a big supporter of Make-A-Wish, Nike.
“Do it. It’s so rewarding. It’s not hard work. If you’re thinking about it. Just do it.”