Behind The Wish - Julie

Meet Julie Corkery - a wonderful Make-A-Wish volunteer of 10 years.

As part of the Sydney South Branch, Julie always goes above and beyond to make wishes happen in Sydney.

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


Certificate of thanks for decade-long volunteer

I got my 10-year certificate from Make-A-Wish at our last Branch meeting (see picture).

It made me feel quite proud, that’s why I wanted photos taken on the night.

Selana (Sydney South Branch president) asked if she can put it on Facebook and I said yes because I think it raises the profile of Make-A-Wish.

We have got to be proud of what we do. I think you need to be proud and not overly modest. I am proud because I know I have had some sort of impact in other people’s lives and they have had a big impact in my life too.

You meet the most beautiful children and wonderful families. It is very enriching.

I am a Sydney girl through and through. I have always lived in Sydney; I was born in Camperdown. I now live in the inner southwest.

I have a younger brother. Growing up we lived near a park so I got to roam free a lot of the time.

It is what we called a dead-end street so we could play in the street a lot. I was a real outdoor child.

I taught for 34 years full time and then another 11 years part time. To be a good primary school teacher you need to have fun and have a laugh.

When I was in my 20s and 30s and people would ask me about teaching, I would say ‘well in my job you laugh every day’.

There was always a child doing or saying something funny to make you laugh.


Spare time to help kids

I think joining Make-A-Wish came about because of my job as a teacher. I am a retired primary school teacher.

Back in 2013 I transitioned from full time to part time. So, I started searching for somewhere I could volunteer and I had a few criteria.

I wanted something to fit in with casual teaching so it couldn’t be like Meals on Wheels or something during the day.

I wanted to work with multi-aged volunteers so not just all retired people. And I wanted to help kids, that was a big motivation.

Many years earlier I had met a little girl in the security line at Sydney Airport.

We were chatting while we were waiting in the queue and she told me she was going down to Melbourne to see the Australian Open.

That’s where I was going too. But it turned out that was her wish from Make-A-Wish.

That was many years before I joined Make-A-Wish but it made a real impression on me.

The funny part was her dad pushed in front of me and he was probably in a rush, he had a sick child and had three kids with him but he pushed in front of me and she felt embarrassed so she said ‘sorry, sorry’ and I said ‘that’s all right’.

And then she started talking to me, that’s what started the conversation. I just thought it was lovely she was excited about her wish.


Finding a way to make wishes happen

The first wish I was involved in was a very big wish, I was the third volunteer on the team.

It was 2014 and Kia Motors were sponsor of the Soccer World Cup in Brazil.

Kia wanted to send a child from every state to Brazil.

I had been involved in this wish, a 14-year-old boy who had cystic fibrosis and wanted to meet the Barcelona soccer team. We were telling him we don’t do overseas wishes. So, Barcelona soccer team would have to come here.

Then when Kia approached Make-A-Wish head office they looked through their files and saw this boy.

So, in the end he and his parents went to Brazil for the World Cup and saw Australia v Spain.

So, he saw the Spanish national team. He ran onto the field with the mascot.

Another wish came to fruition this year.

A little girl who had to wait for her wish and is now a teenager. She wanted to swim with the dolphins.

We first interviewed her in 2019 and she was very ill.

She was going through treatment and then of course, COVID came, so everything was delayed. In the end, she went this year and she’s fully recovered. And she has now got beautiful long hair and it was a beautiful time.

She nearly passed away during treatments because she had adverse reactions to the chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

She got very, very high temperatures and that’s very dangerous. Twice that I know of she nearly passed away.

I corresponded with her mum throughout and then when we were organising the wish presentation, she said to me ‘I have always wanted to do an end of treatment party’ and she said ‘how about we combine them’ so they put on a big party and we went out and did the wish presentation during the party. That was a good one.

We had a boy whose wish was to meet Roger Federer. I was on that wish too.

The Make-A-Wish head office has to work with celebrities and in this case, Roger Federer said he was happy to meet with the wish child but it had to be in Brisbane because he really wanted to focus on the Australian Open.

He wanted to win it one more time, which he did.

The good thing about that was that the wish family already had tickets for the Australian Open in Melbourne so the wish child got to fly to Brisbane and have the meet and greet and hit with Roger and then they got to go to Melbourne as well!

I think Roger caught up with him again in Melbourne. The sports people and celebrities are generally very generous.

The wish child is still an ambassador for us. His name is Michael Ponticello and he’s doing quite well in Sydney, working with Ben Fordham on radio.

I have a favourite that’s a much smaller wish. They don’t always have to be a grand wish.

Now this one might make me cry.

He’s fine, he’s good but he was a little boy and he had that bloody neuroblastoma where they get tumours all over their nervous system.

It’s a horrible, horrible thing. He was only 3 years old when he was diagnosed and he’s 7 now. Anyway, when we had the interview, he knew exactly what he wanted.

He wanted a miniature dachshund and the thing that makes me cry … (*sobbing*) … is that he said he wanted the puppy to play with and keep him safe. Because his life had been in the balance, he hadn’t always felt safe.

That really touched me. That wasn’t a big wish as in going interstate but it was still beautiful. I have some fabulous photos of the puppy.

The parents are very young, they aren’t 30, and they have another baby they had during COVID.

I don’t get emotional. I am fine with the wish kids and parents, it’s just when I am retelling a story or something really poignant like that. He had four years of not feeling safe.

Four years. It was a very long time. It’s amazing what the doctors can do, neuroblastoma now has a high cure rate.


'The parents are the loveliest people'

I don’t tend to get upset; I hold it together. I only get upset if I am talking to the branch members or something like that.

They are so resilient; the children are so brave.

The parents have to be brave because if your child’s brave you can’t fall apart, you have got to be brave. They are so grateful to Make-A-Wish, they are the loveliest people.

The parents can’t really afford to feel sorry for themselves.

They have to be there for their child. And once they are better, they have to shake it off and make up for all those years they have missed.

It’s creating memories that will last a lifetime.

There is a little boy about 5 years old on my list I am chatting to at the moment. He has fully recovered and his mum wants to hold off on the wish until he can remember it.

She wants him to remember it for his whole life and I think that’s very sensible. Wait a couple of years, he is coming up to 7 or 8 now so we will get in touch to see if the timing is right.


Raising money for Make-A-Wish and feeling blessed

I think the Hungry Jack’s campaign is fantastic. If you’re just parents in your 30s and you have got a couple of kids you can go to Hungry Jack’s and buy them a star for $2 or $3. I think we need to think simple with our campaigns.

Make-A-Wish has really enriched my life. I have met so many lovely people. I feel really blessed. I feel it’s a privilege to volunteer. I feel I get so much; I like to think I give a lot but I get so much out of it. You get so much positive feedback and you meet the most beautiful people you would never meet otherwise. I hope I have a good impact in their lives.

The Sydney South branch is strong because everyone comes to the meeting. And we all get along well. We all come to the meeting.

We made the decision as a group that in 2023 we would make it in-person only meetings and move away from Zoom.

We have got a much better turn-up than other branches. Most volunteers go most months.

I am Vice President, and was Volunteer Care Coordinator for a few years.

It is a little bit less arduous. Volunteer Care is probably the most arduous. You are interviewing new volunteers all the time.

All fundraisers are good. But the trivia night was a good night.

It’s a fine line because some people can’t afford it. The Ladies High Tea has morphed into the Ladies Lunch.

We had a gambling night, fake gambling. You bought tokens and all the money went to Make-A-Wish.

I have got no intention of going anywhere.

My health is very good so as long as I am healthy, I’ll stay with Make-A-Wish. It’s part of my life.

I do travel the world. I went to Scandinavia in June. So, you can travel the world and still be a Make-A-Wish volunteer!

Julie has been proudly volunteering since 2013