It’s the thing I can’t seem to tap into at the yoga basics class on weekend mornings or in my daily routine. I’m someone who likes the regular- the same peanut butter-topped Eggo waffle for breakfast, the same route to class, a neatly laid out week in my planner and the next box checked off on my list. However, through my time with Make-A-Wish Illinois I’ve learned that sometimes you have to be willing to bend a little to get the most out of an experience.
I’m not embarrassed to admit (ok, a little, but this is Northwestern and Northwestern internship culture) that I was initially rejected from the internship I currently have. I applied to Make-A-Wish Illinois in October while abroad and was rejected not long after. Ok, fine. No winter internships panned out so I headed into winter quarter looking forward to my four day weekends and abundant free time. Then in January, I got an email saying the position had suddenly opened up again. Was I still interested in interviewing? In one week I went from an unemployed aimless junior to Communications intern. I changed my work study schedule and piled on extra hours wherever I could in my first foray into flexibility, bought some business casual jeans, and headed off to River North on the 8:12 a.m. Purple Line Express on a cloudy Friday morning.
Make-A-Wish is a fantastic organization to work for. It’s a non-profit with a long, respected history that anyone can get behind regardless of political or religious beliefs. Many people don’t realize that Make-A-Wish is not just for terminally ill children, but also for children with any life-threatening condition. This means the children we grant wishes too often grow up to live long, happy, and healthy lives and continue to give back to Make-A-Wish. My primary job is to interview families who have recently experienced a Wish and write their stories. That was my plan. It’s turned out to be much more. I’ve gotten to call families and tell them they will be receiving a wish and then ask for every detail of their lives over the phone. I’ve had to scan page after page of obituaries and faded Polaroids from the early days of the organization, dozens of children who died before I was born and often before they reached their teens. I’ve constructed event pages and written tweets and seen some very sick children made very happy.
Above all, it has required me to be flexible. It’s easy to sit down and engage in busy work until five p.m., but it’s a lot harder to get up and ask who in the office needs an extra set of hands when my supervisor is out. These conversations with families turn intimate and personal with almost no warning and the script I type up and study before every call is suddenly irrelevant. However, I’m glad that Make-A-Wish is the place where I get to do it. Non-profit work can often be frustrating it’s hard to see any immediate results of your actions. Despite knowing that my contribution to the organization is minuscule at best I am privileged to see tangible and positive events unfold every day. It might be another community fundraiser springing up (catch Wish Night in Evanston at Tech on May 14th!), opening a folder to see another beaming kid in a blue Make-A-Wish shirt in front of Walt Disney’s castle, or a box packed full of toys and games for children going through chemotherapy. Whatever it ends up being, I can be flexible.
Olivia Kuncio is a junior Communication Studies student who is interning at The Make-A-Wish Foundation this quarter.