After years of communicating and coordinating across the state to make dreams come true, Make-A-Wish Idaho finally has a solid presence in North Idaho.
"This is our official launch into the community," Make-A-Wish Idaho director of development Jessica Budzianowski said Thursday.
The Boise-based nonprofit, which grants wishes for kids with life-threatening medical conditions, has been working on establishing itself in Coeur d'Alene and the surrounding area for the past nine months. The goal: To better serve children and families in the northern part of the state.
The Make-A-Wish Idaho North Idaho Regional Council, which formed in March, will provide vision and strategic focus while advocating for the Make-A-Wish Idaho mission. It will report to the board of directors for Make-A-Wish Idaho. Neil Gulley, the senior vice president of the West and Midwest regions at Title Resource Group, a title and settlement services company, will serve as the liaison between the board and the council.
The North Idaho Regional Council comprises six community leaders who will use their connections, resources and philanthropic values to broaden the mission's exposure, expand the network of volunteers and develop new funding channels in the 10 northern counties. Members will immediately get to work analyzing data and setting priorities, recruiting volunteers, planning an annual fundraising event and engaging in community activities.
The council members are: Randy Oaks, chief executive officer of 3Acorn Insurance and Financial Services; Rick Rasmussen, CEO of Northwest Specialty Hospital; Jamé Davis, CEO of the Post Falls Chamber of Commerce; Post Falls Police Chief Pat Knight; and Jacob Bonwell, co-founder of Camp Journey, an oncology camp for kids.
Ron Nilson, CEO and chairman of the board of Ground Force Worldwide, will serve as council chairman, a role he is proud to assume.
"The North Idaho community is incredibly generous, and it’s imperative for us to come together and help bring hope, strength and joy to our local kids and families when they need it the most," Nilson said. "Our goal as a council is to provide vision, insight, feedback, and strategy for Make-A-Wish Idaho to be an active part of our local community for years to come. Serving as a Make-A-Wish Idaho volunteer is important to me, because I know, together as a community, we can create life-changing wishes for our local children with critical illnesses and make a positive and fulfilling impact in their lives and those around us."
Nilson has been a driving force on the Kootenai Technical Education Campus, the Boys & Girls Club in Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene, and many other community-based efforts and organizations.
Make-A-Wish Idaho needs local volunteers to serve on the leadership and ambassador teams. Leadership members will put the council's vision into place while ambassadors will support wish granters and be Make-A-Wish Idaho faces in the community. Wish granters are volunteers who work with families to grant the children's wishes, which could be anything from meeting Spider-Man at an ice cream party to swimming with dolphins during a Caribbean cruise.
Wish granters are also needed. Even though 90 wishes are granted each year, 140 more wish kids have been put on hold. In North Idaho, an average of 12 wishes are granted each year, but another 40 local kids have to wait about a year for their special something. About 35 volunteers are active in North Idaho; 60 more volunteers could help make these wishes happen.
"We have wish kids and wish families who need our help and these children are medically fragile and they can't wait for this," Budzianowski said. "I deeply believe in being able to support and bring joy to these families."
A wish will come true for one special little girl in North Idaho next week. The Press will be there for her once-in-a-lifetime experience, thanks to Make-A-Wish Idaho and Northwest Specialty Hospital.