Behind The Wish - Natalie Scholz
Meet Natalie Scholz - an outstanding Make-A-Wish volunteer of 24 years.
As one of the pioneers of the Barossa Valley Branch, Natalie has put her heart and soul into life-changing wishes in South Australia.
Behind The Wish is our series of inspirational reads diving into the everyday superheroes involved in creating life-changing wishes.
Saddling up for a country life
My passion is horses. I think my first words I said were ‘mum, dad, pony’ in that order and I would ride whenever I could.
Whenever there was an inkling, someone had a horse, I would be like ‘dad take me there’.
He caved when I was about 9 and I got my first horse. His name was Florian and he was a brown and white horse.
We had many others. I would always say there’s no horse in a bad colour.
I have still got horses, so what happened in my childhood has had an effect. I now share it with my daughter, she has horses.
I am Barossa born and bred. I grew up on a farm on the outskirts of the Barossa. Truro, between Barossa and when you hit the Riverland.
I had an idyllic childhood growing up a country kid on a farm surrounded by animals.
I attended a primary school of 20 kids then a high school was 1000 kids. I remember that being such a culture shock but I managed to get used to crowds and navigate through.
We had grazing and sheep farm. Pigs, chooks. I have a brother who now runs the farm. My parents retired and moved to a house in the Barossa but my dad is still up at the farm six days a week and he is in his 80s.
I ended up going into nursing and marrying a local lad and we have got a bit of land and have raised our kids in a semi-rural setting. We have been able to slide in an out of farm life because my family and my husband’s family still have farms.
I met my husband David at a local country disco.
We have got two boys and a daughter. Our eldest is 23, one turned 21 recently and my youngest she is doing Year 12 this year.
She turned 18 in June. I think she’s pretty positive about Year 12, she’s doing a traineeship alongside Year 12.
Helping children through nursing
I started nursing in 1991, I was in the metropolitan hospital.
I was there for 23 years, doing emergency nursing with a special focus on children.
So, it was an adult/children’s department. Eventually I got to a point where I wanted to do more children’s nursing so I went from acute care to a very much community focus.
I went back to uni and did a post grad certificate.
I have now been five years in the Barossa, being close to home. I used to do a two hour round trip to get to work. I was supporting mums, families and babies in the first five years.
I am very lucky to be able to still work with children. Right now, I am a child and family health nurse.
There’s been lots of changes with nursing, and technology, in the last three years. We had a big wave of COVID in the early stages, a cluster.
We had to do everything via Microsoft Teams, no one came into our clinic. We are now getting back to pre-COVD conditions.
During COVID I got to be home more and spend more time with family.
We got to do things around our place. I was able to ride all the time as Scott Morrison said horse-riding was something you could do during COVID. It apparently was one of the fastest-growing hobbies.
I volunteer for a number of groups; I volunteer for our local show and that keeps us busy.
Branch started as a family affair
Joining Make-A-Wish was through my sister-in-law Rachael.
She was part of a wish, she set up a computer for a young boy.
She was travelling to work in Adelaide and to be part of the Adelaide Branch. And eventually she thought this isn’t working and she decided to have an information night in 1999.
She said ‘I just need people to fill some seats, so can you come along to this information night and you won’t have to do anything’. I was like ‘ok no worries’ but that was that and here we are.
Those first few core people are still very much involved.
It was very much family and friends to begin with.
We ended up having children and our babies would be put in capsules and brought along to meetings and taken along to fundraisers.
We would have to have a break and feed our babies.
Our mums would be involved logistically to allow it to happen. We had really good support behind us.
The amount of wishes we did and the travelling we did; it was a very rewarding time.
When we had another information night, we had new people.
We had this little English lady, Vickie (Lester), and she jumped in feet first and within three months she was president.
She has been an instrumental volunteer, both at a branch level and the national level.
She is certainly a very motivating person; I think all of us bounce off each other.
She has just been everything. She is such a motivating and positive force.
She’ll say ‘I have the army coming for that’ or ‘My school is coming for that’.
If she was an animal, I would relate her to a beaver.
I would be like the golden retriever because they always say yes to everything. You just rock up and smile and do it.
Rachael’s other sister Amanda was there at the start, then there was some good friends of Rachael’s – Jan Newman and Sam. Rachael’s mum joined as a volunteer.
There were a couple from where Rachael was working at Seppeltsfields Winery.
And we roped in a couple of girls connected to Truro. Then when Vickie joined, she brought a whole lot of Trinity staff.
My children have been to lots of fundraising events.
Where they could be in the background, help set out or do little jobs like sell merchandise. They got skills out of it.
My husband and I value volunteering, when each of our kids are 21, they all have to volunteer for something. Once they are 21, they need to give back.
It was literally that first night I went to, that I wanted to commit to Make-A-Wish. I didn’t really know much before going that night.
All I knew is that Rachael helped set up a computer wish but that evening she shared the story of Christopher Greicious and how Make-A-Wish started in America. And that made everyone cry.
Whenever Vickie has told that story, and she does a lot, everyone cries. I have heard her say it hundreds of times but I still feel the same every time I hear it.
Make-A-Wish is in so many countries around the world.
Christopher’s mum went to a police officer in America and from that it grew.
And then people said ‘let’s help make it happen in Australia’.
The whole thing is about pay it forward, and from little things big things grow.
'That wish is something they can focus on'
It was 24 years in March 2023 that I have been a volunteer.
There’s always someone who needs a wish.
Once you have granted a wish, unfortunately, there’s always someone else who gets that medical diagnosis that changes their lives forever.
You can get quite bogged down in that as a nurse or medical person.
But having come in and being involved with children with medical conditions from a volunteer perspective, you know that in those challenging times they can look forward to a wish.
You know that wish is helping that child every time that have a painful procedure or operation or medicines.
That wish is something they can focus on, and say to themselves ‘every time I have this, I am closer to having that wish’.
You can become a powerful advocate. If someone from a Wish family says something or there is a diagnosis you have that deeper understanding of what it means and you can go to mum and say ‘do you think it’s ok if I get hold of national office and get things moving quicker’.
We have been able to do this for some people who national office is only seeing one side – but we see them and see they are not very well – and you can go back and say ‘can we speed this up’ and we have managed to avert situations where kids get their wish when they are really unwell.
I cry through my eyes all the time. I am a very teary person. Some in the branch are stronger and don’t show it, they deal with emotions a different way. We all know our strengths so we support each other.
You have to be aware sometimes there are times where we are all triggered more.
Recently there’s more support for volunteers. Volunteers can now debrief to someone outside the volunteer group.
Make-A-Wish has the programs to support us.
I have had amazing experiences in some of those unique wishes.
Make-A-Wish paid for us to get into see Archie’s cricket wish on Boxing Day. What a privilege!
Rachael and I went to Archie’s house and got the ball rolling. He wanted to be Australia’s Test cricket captain.
We were optimistic everyone would do the right thing by the wish child.
You don’t realise how big it is going to be until people get on board with it.
If it was state cricket he wishes for – a bat and ball presented by the Adelaide team - it would have been a great wish. But in the end, it was a wish that had such big impact and continues to.
His family just live and breathe cricket and to see that cricket team – they could not do enough and they were genuine.
I know they are genuine because Archie is still in contact with some of those cricketers.
Whenever they come to Adelaide, Archie gets a call and invitation to come on down.
They will be invested in his journey as he negotiates his teenage years.
A village creates a wish
Because of my nursing background I was involved in Dwayne’s wish to go to the moon.
I was chosen to go on the plane with him and fly around the city and go back to the hanger because if he had a seizure, they needed a medical person on hand.
So, when he came into the moon space, I was walking right behind him and got to see his reaction.
That wish was just absolutely magical. The hangar was transformed into the moonscape, it literally was like you were walking in space.
Then he got to put his flag in. It was quite magical.
We can’t be a branch without the people in Wish Services and the work that national office does. It’s quite a unique type of relationship. Some of us are volunteers, some of us are paid, but we have got that common goal.
And over the years I have loved some of those moments of working with staff in national office.
They are so motivating and so inspiring and so positive. Sometimes when you might be feeling a bit flat, they then make a phone call and you get inspired and go ‘I can organise this and organise that’ .
The drive and motivation at Make-A-Wish HQ goes hand in hand with what we are doing on the ground.
In my job as a nurse, I am always saying it takes a village to raise a baby, and it’s a little bit like that at Make-A-Wish.
It takes a wish child, a volunteer, a family, a community, and then the staff at national office to create a wish. It takes a village to create a wish.
Natalie has been proudly volunteering since 1999