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As I slipped into my heels and slicked on a layer of lip gloss, I couldn’t help but feel like a little girl playing dress-up in mom’s closet. I was headed to a silent auction fundraiser and sponsor gala organized by Make-A-Wish Philadelphia, Delaware, and Susquehanna Valley, where I’m interning this fall. It was my first chance to see the organization in action outside my cubicle.
- Nicole Gieselman
I’d spent the past two weeks in the office prepping for the event, tackling everything from poster design to ribbon-tying. I took on the internship to fulfill graduation requirements, but so far it has been the most fulfilling professional experience of my academic career. My colleagues respect me, my work is engaging, and I already have pieces to add to my portfolio. Objectively speaking, I knew from the start that I was making a difference. It was my interest in the nonprofit sector, and in Make-A-Wish specifically, that prompted me to pass up a paid internship opportunity in exchange for this position, which I hoped would be a stepping stone to a worthwhile career.
I was about to experience just how right my choice had been.
There was an hour or so of semi-awkward mingling. I discussed the challenges and rewards of working in the nonprofit sector with several attendees who warned me of the low salaries and long hours associated with a career in charity work. And yet, I couldn’t help but notice how content they seemed with their professional choices. Despite the high-brow nature of the event, the attendees I spoke to seemed kind and down-to-earth. It wasn’t the corporate schmoozing experience I’d feared.
Once we were seated for the award ceremony, the true meaning of my work began to dawn on me. I found myself across from Dimitri, a spunky 9-year-old whose wish to visit Disney was granted several years ago. His parents chatted with me about work and the weather, mundane topics that gave no indication of the gravity of their presence at the event. It was only when they rose to receive their award— they were being recognized for the significant fundraising they’d done for Make-A-Wish in the years since Dimitri’s wish— that emotions started to surface.
I don’t usually wear my feelings on my sleeve. Yet I found myself sniffling alongside my colleagues as a parade of Wish families, including the one I’d had the privilege of getting to know over dinner, shared their incredible stories of hope and determination. These personal accounts helped me realize the true impact Make-A-Wish can have.
- Nicole Gieselman
A career in the nonprofit sector won’t be easy. I’ll have to give up some material comforts, wear a variety of hats, and bear more emotional turmoil than any corporate public relations position would bring. But, armed with the knowledge that I’m contributing to a truly meaningful cause, I find myself looking forward to days in the office. My hours in the cubicle start to fly by when I reflect on Dimitri’s cherubic, healthy smile and his mother’s joyful tears.
The future is still, of course, full of uncertainty. Who knows if I’ll be able to land a job with a charity at all, much less one as dynamic as Make-A-Wish. No matter what happens, though, I couldn’t have hoped for a more ideal internship experience. It turns out that by helping others live their dreams, I was granted my own wishes, too.