Behind The Wish - Domenic Cincotta

Meet Domenic Cincotta - a valuable former member of the Make-A-Wish Melbourne Branch.

For 11 years Domenic's life was enriched by Wish children and their families.

Behind The Wish is our series of inspirational reads diving into the everyday superheroes involved in creating life-changing wishes.


Italian love story

My parents were Italian migrants in the 1950s. Until I was 18 years old, we never lived in a house, we always lived at the back of a shop.

It was either a fruit shop or a milk bar. I grew up in a really happy family.

My father came to Australia when he was very young, 16 years old, with his dad. He was pretty much self-sufficient; he was living in the back of a fruit shop. He went into the Australian Army and associated with a lot of Australians.

We grew up in Forrest Hill and Oakleigh, more so in Oakleigh because that’s where my parents had their longest stint of milk bars.

The Oakleigh footy ground was very close so footy became a very big part of our lives when I was growing up. I barrack for St Kilda; they’ve broken my heart a bit. One flag in 150 years is nothing to be proud of.

Dad sent a message to his grandparents in Italy asking if they knew of a nice Italian girl. And they knew of this family. So, this girl lived with my grandmother for a while, then they married. Mum and dad have both passed away.

It was terrible to lose them. Dad was my best mate. We learnt a lot from him, he was a good man. And mum was just wonderful. She did a lot for dad, as a lot of Italian ladies do for their husbands. Dad passed away 15 years ago and mum four years ago.

I have got a brother and a sister. We are very, very close.

I have beautiful nieces and nephews. I am very fortunate I have got two wonderful daughters. They have given us our first granddaughter: her name is Francesca.

I’m in the rail industry. I work in the electrical control room. We monitor all the electrical systems throughout the state. Making sure there’s overhead power for the trains. And there’s power for the boom gates. By trade I’m an electrician. I got into the railways 39 years ago.


'Whatever we have given them they have given me ten-fold'

I saw a TV show where another charity was doing something for kids, and they were using Harleys.

I have always ridden motorbikes and it got my brain thinking and I wondered if I could do this Harley ride for a child. I got in touch with this charity and they said ‘send your info’ but nothing ever came out of it.

I think soon after I saw some media on Make-A-Wish where they made presentations to kids. And I thought how wonderful that was. I got in touch with Make-A-Wish, saying I have got a Harley so if you ever need a Harley for a kid I can help. And they got in touch. They wanted me for their Christmas Party.

The Melbourne Branch used to do the Children’s Christmas Party. All the kids that had wishes through the year were invited. When I turned up there was about 30 odd Harleys.

Everyone was giving kids rides all day. I absolutely loved it. I did that and at the end of the day they said ‘if you really enjoyed it, you should join us as a volunteer’. I had never thought about it.

I asked a few questions and they said they get together once a month, and they do wishes for children.

I went to the first meeting and they were all so welcoming. Just wonderful people. You could see and feel a different sort of presence in that room. These people were very caring sort of people.

They were wonderful people doing wonderful things, so I joined up as a volunteer.

I have met some of the most beautiful people. They have been families in bad situations but whatever we have given them they have given me ten-fold.

You give them a gift and make them happy, but you walk away from that thinking wow I don’t have to deal with any of those issues that they have to every single day. You see how close-knit they are as a family and how much they adore their children. Those wish families are just wonderful people.

We take so many things for granted every day. You go to work, you come home, you meet up with your mates and do whatever you want to do.


Wishes touch wish kids and volunteers alike

I remember the faces of the wish children so vividly.

There was this beautiful young girl and her wish was for a piano.

She had learnt a little piano somewhere along the line but she didn’t know a lot of piano.

Make-A-Wish got her a little baby grand piano. It was absolutely gorgeous. We had a volunteer who was a very good pianist and said he’d love to come along for the wish. They were a beautiful family.

When we went there the girl was going through her treatment and lost her hair. But there was a beautiful family photo on the wall I couldn’t help but notice. And she had the most beautiful long black hair.

She was just a stunning girl. And the father couldn’t speak any English whatsoever and mum made wontons for us so we had something to eat.

I just happened to turn around and I saw the father and he was smiling and he had a tear in his eye. And I thought, how wonderful.

He gave us a hug at the end as we walked out. He didn’t say any words whatsoever because he couldn’t speak any English but you could just tell this was very special to him and his family.

When the kids Christmas came up that year, I invited the families I had done wishes for.

This family with the piano sent a beautiful letter back saying ‘thank you very much but our daughter has passed away’.

It was shocking to think that this beautiful family was less one child now. It was just sad to think that such a beautiful moment is going to be followed by such a sad situation.

When we are talking about this kind of stuff with people you wonder how that family has moved on. You don’t stay in contact; you do your wish and move to the next wish. You don’t get too attached but in a way you do.

Some of my favourite wishes have bells and whistles all over them.

I did a wish for a young boy, a huge St Kilda supporter. While he was in hospital, (St Kilda player) Fraser Gehrig got in touch with him.

The boy wanted to go to Wrestle Mania in Chicago. We got in touch with the St Kilda Football Club and asked if Fraser Gehrig could do the presentation because the presentation is something the volunteers can do.

Fraser Gehrig loved the idea and said let’s do it at the club. On the day we went to the club and Fraser and (coach) Grant Thomas met us in their meeting room. For whatever reason the other volunteer couldn’t make it that day so I was pretty much on my own and I asked our Branch President if my kids could come along.

They had been involved in a lot of fundraisers. The balls, sausage sizzles and those kinds of things we ran.

And I got the OK to bring my two kids to the wish. We were sitting in this room where there was nobody and my two daughters sitting up on chairs and all of a sudden, the doors opened and the whole team came in!

We gave the tickets over for the wish trip and the newspaper came out to the wish reveal.

The family were taken out on the ground and they got the little boy to kick a goal and that picture made the paper.


The day Nathan Buckley surprised everyone

Another wish I recall, the boy wanted to go to Disneyland. But he was too unwell to fly to America so the doctors gave him the OK to go to the Disneyland in Japan.

This family lived in a very very modest house. They wanted us to take him out to KFC at Knox. We had KFC for lunch and gave him his tickets but that day I also gave him this Batman hat. He loved it.

Throughout that day whenever he turned around, I pretended to pinch it off him. He made a bit of a game of it.

I remember nine months later we had the Make-A-Wish Christmas Party for the kids. A lot of people were there.

During that day I got this tap on the back and I turned around and it was that young boy. He had the Batman hat, he showed it to me and ran away. I was thinking, far out, that was nine months ago. It meant something. He remembered that day we took him out. I thought it was unreal.

Another time, we got this phone call about a young boy who was in hospital.

His wish was for a laptop. But he was getting to the point where he wasn’t well at all, and was stuck in hospital.

I got a phone call saying this is probably the last weekend the hospital will allow external people to visit. It was basically going to be family-only. I found out his favourite footy player was (Collingwood’s) Nathan Buckley.

Nathan Buckley playing for Collingwood. Picture: HERALD SUN

I got in touch with the club and I had Nathan’s phone number so I messaged him. I asked if there was any chance, he could present the boy with his laptop in hospital.

The problem was that on the Sunday the team was flying to Sydney to play. He was injured but he still had to go. So, he said ‘I’m sorry’.

Anyway, I found out on the Monday morning that what he did was cancel his flight and he went to the hospital and presented him his laptop and got the later flight. Which was brilliant.

Over that next three weeks, Nathan Buckley kept visiting him. Just on his own, no one knew, no media. The boy obviously touched him enough to want to do that.


Wishes teach you to cherish your own kids

The impact for me was knowing how lucky I am to have two daughters who are happy and healthy, and we can do anything we want when we want. No restrictions.

If I compare that to Make-A-Wish and the wish families, you understand simple little tasks we take for granted some children can’t do.

And you wonder how their lives would be different if they could change them.

I just remember this wonderful man and his son. The boy was completely immobile and he couldn’t walk or talk and had no muscular strength.

All the dad wanted to do was to bring his son to a St Kilda football match. And maybe go into the change rooms if possible.

So, when we went to the home, he met us at the door and we then sat in the kitchen. And his son was laying on the couch. He brought his wheelchair out and it took him a good 10 or 15 minutes to lift him up and sit him up, strap him securely, and get him ready.

Then he brought him over to us. He said ‘he can’t talk but you can ask whatever you like’. He had this thing that if he looked at his dad’s left eye it means yes, if he looks at his right eye it means no. They had this wonderful relationship between them and the love this man had for his son was incredible.

To think that he can’t go out to play with other kids, like our kids do, is heartbreaking. But seeing what this man was doing for this boy was incredible.

This boy must have required 24-hour care from his dad. And his dad gives it to him. He loved him so much. And he was going to do what he had to do for years.

So, the wish went ahead. Luke Ball was the captain at the time and St Kilda said if you can come to the club on Tuesday, he can meet some of the players.

They brought him into a corner and two at a time players would come out. One either side of him, and they’d take photos. They gave him a signed jumper. I have got to do wishes with Bulldogs, Essendon, Collingwood, St Kilda and the football clubs were just spectacular.

There are some very special people out there. I hope that father and son are both still around and happy.

What Make-A-Wish meant to me was that I need to love my kids and hug them as much as I can. I am 64 now and my kids have given me a lot of joy.

Make-A-Wish played such a big part in making me appreciate everything I have.


Make-A-Wish always in Domenic's heart

Giving is more pleasurable than receiving. There’s no way known we could have given these kids what we did ourselves.

So, we have been given the privilege by Make-A-Wish to find out what they want and then be the people that are going to give it to them.

They are doing all the hard work at the office, they generate the money for wishes, get in touch with the corporates and get you whatever you need then they give you the pleasure of going out and doing the wish. How lucky are we?

The control room where I work is shift work, afternoons and nights.

That was pretty much the end of my opportunity to have a social life. It was 24/7 and rostered on weekends. There were Make-A-Wish meetings I couldn’t make.

The Branch said I was supposed to turn up to meetings and I couldn’t. I felt I wasn’t keeping my end of bargain.

The work demands meant I couldn’t make all the meetings anymore. And I couldn’t continue to be Historian so I thought it was time to finish up, reluctantly.

I miss it, I have beautiful memories. The kids Christmas Party was massive.

There was one wish family who would bring $300 or $400 meat for every Christmas party. There was probably enough for everyone to eat. There are some beautiful wish families.

Make-A-Wish will always be in my heart. And my wife and children’s hearts. I will remember all the wish kids, including the little boy with the Batman hat.

One of the guys I work with has joined up. He is now a current volunteer.

You got to think about why you are going to these people’s homes and it’s because their child hasn’t been well and have a life-threatening illness.

And because of the beautiful doctors and nurses they have the opportunity to do something with Make-A-Wish. For that time, during a wish, they can switch off from their medical issues and enjoy life.

I met some of the most beautiful people in the most unfortunate situations. But I was blessed that I got to meet them.

Domenic proudly volunteered for Make-A-Wish between 2001 and 2013.