Volunteer Spotlight on Heidi Helbig
In celebration of World Wish Day, we highlight one of our
incredible volunteers from the Barossa Valley branch.
Heidi tells her story below.
How it started
The tap on the shoulder
I joined Make-A-Wish around 2008. It was like how just about everyone else in our branch gets there, somebody drags you in. Taps you on the shoulder. And once you’re in you can never leave. It’s like an unspoken code, we are never letting you go (*laughs*). It’s a fairly core group of people. It was Amanda Noack who was tapping me on the shoulder, she was one of my besties from work. Her sister Rachael started the branch.
My emotions are usually at the surface and my concern was that it could become quite emotional to be involved in wishes whereby the diagnosis isn’t positive. But that became less important over time as I could see how impactful wishes both for the volunteers were and for the families themselves. To meet a family at their most vulnerable and then make that difference is incredibly gratifying and humbling.
And once you have had kids of your own – and my kids are well – you just don’t take that for granted.
Because I have been blessed with healthy kids it’s a real privilege to come into the lives of others when that might not be the case for them. I guess that’s what changed for me, was realising that I could make a contribution.
The First Wish
My first wish was a teenage boy named Thomas and he wanted to meet a Grand Prix driver, Sebastian Vettel. He was coming to Australia to race so we were able to make that wish possible. That was his one true wish and it was remarkable. Thomas was standing in front of his idol. I still remember the photo. And his family were such a beautiful family. So, it was lovely wish. It transpired just as it should. A big fairytale.
To make that connection with the family was wonderful, a connection that was ongoing and well past Thomas’s wish. He would be a young adult now but if we bumped into that family now there would still be a connection now and that’s beautiful.
Ava's Inspiring Wish
One of the wishes that stands out was recently, it was Ava’s. Ava was known to Amanda, my friend who recruited me. Ava was a family member of theirs. Amanda and I were on that wish together and we both dressed up as princesses. Ava had a simple wish, to have a cubby house.
It brought her so much joy and happiness. They were still putting the finishing touches to the cubby when she was on her way home.
We had met her a couple of years earlier when she was younger than 3 - too young to be a recipient for a wish - but was eligible for a wish hamper. She had been a little toddler and then the next time she was a little girl receiving her wish.
It was the fanciest cubby I ever saw. It has bells and whistles and slides and was covered in butterflies which was her favourite thing at the time. It was also important for her to have a space to sit inside so she could have a picnic with her siblings and she got to do that.
Ava has just cut off all her hair to raise money for Make-A-Wish. That just reinforces what the wish meant for that family, that even at 8 or so she’s giving back after having received something.
She’s raised over $2,500 to give back to Make-A-Wish. Her parents are people with really big hearts. They are such a loving family. There was no stone they would have left unturned to help her get better.
The Solidarity of The Barossa
It's been incredibly humbling to be part of this journey. The Barossa Branch is really solid. There’s a solidarity there, that group of core people. No one in that group would ask anyone to do anything they wouldn’t do themselves. And there’s something quite special knowing other people have got your back. We are accountable to each other, and we were accountable for each other. I think that’s why the branch is so successful. We leverage each other’s strengths. We have a great variety of talented professional people – educators, people in health, communicators – and we just come together and make stuff happen.
(President) Vickie Lester is the glue that’s held our branch together for so long and she’s an inspirational leader who just tells us we’re going to make this happen and we all believe it. She pulled off some amazing things and that gives everyone else confidence.
Inner Courage and Resilience
I don’t know about the psychology of it but sometimes things are thrown in the paths of those who can confront them and face them head on. And the parents that I have been involved with, to varying degrees, have all showed this inner courage and resilience. Like I said with Ava, they would leave no stone unturned. Their children are everything to them. As ours are to us. They are remarkable, resilient and capable – you think ‘how are you keeping all these balls in the air’. The hospital visits and the uncertainty and yet they just keep making these kids’ lives as normal as they possibly can be. It’s quite special.
There’s this enduring power to a wish. It’s not simply about a wish described then realised. It’s about the impact it has on the child: emotionally, psychologically, their well-being. Because it gives them a chance to switch off from their illness and be someone else or be somewhere else. I imagine the waking thought as a child or a parent is ‘what’s in store for me today’. So, to have something that takes them outside themselves and gives them hope and optimism for the future – that’s where the power lays in the wish.Heidi Helbig, Make-A-Wish Volunteer
Proud To Be a Volunteer
An Everyday Superhero
Sometimes you feel like a superhero with the Make-A-Wish t-shirt on. I feel like it says something to the community about what our mission is, what our values are, what we believe in. That’s why I am proud to wear it because I believe in what Make-A-Wish does.
To someone thinking of joining us, I would say believe in the power of wishes and in yourself to make a difference that’s impactful in the lives of families when they might need it most. Have the confidence to put yourself out there. Branches find out what peoples gifts and talents are and we maximise them. You’ll definitely be asked to do things outside your comfort zone but not anything unreasonable and not anything that you’ll regret. You will look back and think ‘how did we pull that off’, Take that quantum leap and be part of something really rewarding. It’s a great team environment there’s always three people on a wish and you get to know those people really well.
There are more kids in need of wishes so it’s imperative we keep fundraising and recruiting people and finding ambassadors and advocates to tell our stories, the stories of our kids. Every one of them is so beautifully unique and they all deserve it, every one of them.