Matt found out about Make-A-Wish at a young age, under heartbreaking circumstances. His brother was diagnosed with lymphoma when Matt was around 5 years old, “and I’m a couple years older than him,” Matt said. “I didn’t understand what was going on; I remember being in the hospital a lot while he was getting treatment.”
Matt also “visibly” remembers his brother’s wish granters visiting their home and the hospital. His brother wished to go to the Walt Disney World® Resort. “We were able to go as a family to Disney World for a week, which was unbelievable.
“For me on the whole, as tough as I know his treatment was for him, it forced us all to spend so much time in the hospital. We couldn't go out,” Matt said. “On his wish, we all just got really close. All four of us siblings are really close; him and I especially. As I got older and understood what he had been through, the Make-A-Wish part stood out to me because I remember that being something that he visibly got excited for; that made a big difference for him.”
Matt’s brother’s wish was granted by Make-A-Wish Orange County and the Inland Empire. His brother has been in remission for 21 years.
“As I got older and remembered everything that happened, such as his chemotherapy and his surgery, understanding that perspective and just thinking about how much his wish did for him, it all kept Make-A-Wish holding a special place in my heart,” Matt said. “Ever since that had happened, I always knew I wanted to get back to Make-A-Wish to help out.”
Matt has since become a volunteer wish granter at the Orange County chapter and joined the speaker’s bureau to help spread the message of our mission.
Meanwhile, when Chelsey was in high school, she and a friend raised money for Make-A-Wish Orange County and the Inland Empire, in honor of a classmate who had passed away from a critical illness their freshman year. Chelsey says the power of witnessing her classmate’s wish being granted and what that meant for him and his family is what pushed her to stay connected with the organization. “He got this whole experience out of it,” Chelsey recalled. “Our whole class just kind of rallied behind that event.” Chelsey knew from then on that Make-A-Wish would always be part of her future.
When she was in college, Chelsey decided to intern with the Orange County chapter, as she wanted to continue to transform the lives of wish kids. She went on in her career to work for Disneyland® Resort, helping on the Disney side of wish coordinating. Today, she works on the enterprise social responsibility team for The Walt Disney Company, helping to support a variety of programs including the #ShareYourEars campaign benefiting Make-A-Wish.
It just so happened that in 2010, Chelsey and Matt both volunteered to work the ticket and check-in table at an Orange County chapter event to celebrate wish kids and their families. In getting to know each other, Chelsey shared her plans to move up to the San Francisco area, but suggested they keep in touch. The following February, she reached out to Matt to let him know she’d be back in the Orange County area to visit. A coffee date turned into a dinner date, and they have been together ever since.
“When she reached out to get together, I immediately jumped on it,” Matt said. “I felt like she was the best person to get to know. If it hadn’t been for that event, I don’t know if we would have crossed paths. It was a great opportunity for us to get to know each other regarding things that are important to both of us. It was an interesting connection that then grew once we started dating.”
Matt and Chelsey have been married for almost five years now. Chelsey says Make-A-Wish remains a constant in their lives.
“In so many ways, our lives keep coming back to Make-A-Wish,” Chelsey said. “Having met someone who feels as passionate or even more passionate than I do about Make-A-Wish is incredible. It’s something we know the two of us share that is so unique. It is a defining feature of who each of us are, and we feel so at home with each other at Make-A-Wish events. When we volunteer together, we feel that connection even more.”
BECOME A WISH GRANTER! Make-A-Wish trains wish volunteers to help children identify their most heartfelt wish, and then bring the experience to life. Visit your local chapter’s website to learn more about its volunteer needs. FIND MY LOCAL CHAPTER
Show us some love this week by posting your favorite Make-A-Wish memories to Facebook or Twitter using #HugsAndWishes and #SpreadLove. Read the full “Hugs and Wishes” blog series here!