“I started interning at Make-A-Wish Metro New York in April 2014 – my freshman year of college. I didn’t know much about the organization when I started. In fact, I didn’t really want to take the position. As an education major, I had no interest in being an intern in an office. My mom encouraged her to do it, though. “I think you’ll like it,” she said.
That was an understatement.
As an intern in the wish-granting department, I immediately saw the impact my work was having on the families we served. Wishes bring so much happiness to people at really difficult times. I thought working with kids with critical illnesses would be difficult emotionally, but it was actually uplifting. The joy we bring to these families was a revelation. When you’re making wishes happen, you’re not focused on the illness. You’re focused on the joy.
After my internship ended, I continued as a volunteer in the office for a couple of years. Then I signed on for a second internship during my senior year on college - this time, as a social work major. You see, interning at Make-A-Wish completely shifted my career path. I was an education major because I thought that was the only way I could make an impact on children. My internship showed me a different path to making a difference for kids. I graduated from Adelphi University with a degree in social work and went on to get a Master of Social Work from Fordham University.
In addition to the work I’ve done in the office, I also became a wish-granting volunteer in 2015. I’ve had the privilege of witnessing some truly incredible moments. One of my favorites was when I accompanied wish kid Caleb to visit the set of Law and Order: SVU and meet the show’s star, Mariska Hargitay. Caleb was freaking out with excitement. Mariska seemed to be equally delighted to meet him. In a burst of excitement, he asked if he could be an extra on the show. Mariska was directing the episode. Twenty minutes later she came over with someone from wardrobe and said, “Ok! We’re going to make this happen!” When the afternoon was over, it was Mariska who was in tears, so thrilled with the happiness she was able to provide for this young man.
On my 21st birthday, my parents gave me a star necklace, the symbol for Make-A-Wish. I’m 24 now and have worn it every day since then. It’s a reminder of every wish kid and family I’ve worked with. Whenever I feel stressed, I touch the necklace. It centers me and helps put things in perspective.
- Marisa Pugliese