Within one of our guiding documents at MAW, aside from our mission statement, appear these words –
We want everyone who interacts with Make-A-Wish to experience the power of imagination and the strength that comes from it.
Spark imagination, deliver strength.
Imagination is powerful. It is the beginning of the Make-A-Wish journey. A child's imagination is at the heart of everything we accomplish together. Imagination alone inspires, renews and entertains. We do everything we can to capture a child’s heartfelt wish and make it a reality.
Strength is essential. Especially when you’re fighting for your health. We stop at nothing to deliver it. In large doses. The strength to be resilient; the strength to unify a community; the strength to find hope. And it doesn’t stop there. A wish-come-true empowers and transforms the lives of anyone who plays a part.
That preceding passage is what we call the “essence” of our brand. As I re-visit these words today, I can’t help but to consider them when looking out at the state of our country right now: imagination, strength, heartfelt wish, resiliency, unify a community, hope.
There have been many times over my 18 years serving this powerful mission, when facing a challenge, that so many people have shared they’ve taken solace, and received a meaningful and transformative perspective because of an encounter with our mission, be they a donor, a volunteer, a friend of our mission, staff or board member, celebrity wish grantor, and certainly our wish kids and families. I surely know how they feel. A deep dive into and direct exposure to our mission leaves an impact. How could it not? I’ve always held a strong understanding and awareness that our seemingly simple mission is really quite profound – we work with children who are facing their mortality. Looking at life through their lens, and the lens of their families is incredibly humbling. We get to see and realize the fragility, immediacy and urgency of life! Is there anything more powerful than that?
But today, something doesn’t feel right.
Since our founding in New Jersey in 1983, we’ve always held a deep pride about this special community we serve throughout the Garden State. Not only is it one of the most generous communities in the country, we have always been one of the most diverse, in every sense of the word. We have always celebrated this great gift of diversity, be it among our board and staff, volunteer corps, donors, corporate community, medical partners, wish-granting partners and of course the group from which we draw all inspiration, our wish families! We have always celebrated the great diversity in front us.
But again, today there is a great hole in our hearts. We don’t feel like celebrating. Instead, we want - we ACHE - to be in solidarity with one particular group within the larger MAW family, a group that is experiencing great sorrow and pain. We are not a full and vibrant community if one among us hurts. Today, our thoughts are with our black brothers and sisters, our black board and staff, our black colleagues around the country, our black donors, volunteers, medical partners, wish grantors and friends of our mission. But, as always, most especially, our black wish kids and their families. You, ALL of you above, have our compassion and empathy. But more. You have our love.
I was in conversation this morning with one of our board members, Stacey, who shared a story that her husband would be speaking at his company today, a world renowned company, headquartered here in NJ. He was asked to share his feelings on the events of our nation at present. Among his words, he quoted Dr. King, “Injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Thank you, Stacey, for sharing Daneian’s remarks with me. You both gave me much to contemplate, and sit with today.
In closing, to all our constituencies that make up our blended and beautifully diverse MAWNJ tapestry, but particularly to our black friends - you have my commitment and my promise, and that of our board and staff, to bring the words of our “Vision Statement” to the fore, always – “Community: we are a diverse group of people working together towards a common goal.”
You have our pledge that we will take an extra careful look, through the unique lens you provide and share with us, with every beautiful gift you bring to our table, which adds to our greater MAW garment, that we will aspire to do even better. Myself, our board, and senior team, commit to building upon and expanding our diversity, in every constituency that makes up the wider MAW family.
Our prayers remain with all those who loved, and have been inspired by, George Floyd. May he rest in peace.
With deepest gratitude for your trust and friendship,
President & CEO
Make-A-Wish New Jersey