Behind The Wish - Selana

Meet Selana Lawson - an amazing Make-A-Wish volunteer for almost 7 years.

Selana has played an integral role in the success of the Sydney South Branch.

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


Building a new life

I was born in Sydney and I grew up in Sydney. I have two children; my daughter is 22 and the my son who is about to turn 27. My son is a lawyer and my daughter is a primary school teacher. I am very proud of them.

For a long time, it was just my children and I because I was divorced from my previous husband. But fortunately, I found my current husband and we’ve been married almost four years.

We met online. The wedding was at a surf club in Cronulla.

It was very low-key. It was kind of tricky to plan a second wedding because we had done it all before. But it was lovely. It was just family and friends so it was perfect.

I have had many different careers. I never went to university or did a trade. I started work in the bank, and worked my way up there.

Then I was a stay-at-home mother, then I was a personal assistant, then a stay-at-home mother again, then my ex-husband and I divorced and I found myself in the situation of needing to get a job.

I became a teacher’s aide for special needs children. I then became an event coordinator, after that I worked for an event company then I did work in admin and now 3 days a week I’m doing admin for a company that does waterproofing of bathrooms.

This year is a big year for me because we have been renovating our home.

We have been living out of home, in a cabin in a caravan park. It’s quite an unusual circumstance but we are coping Ok. We will move back in July.

This year is all about renovating our home.

The house was a 1980s home so it really did need some work. All the timber work was painted mission brown and I decided I didn’t want mission brown anymore. That’s what started it all.


Selana sheds happy and sad tears

I have been a Make-A-Wish volunteer for six years. It all started when I attended a Ladies Lunch run by the Sydney South Branch. I knew a lady who was a volunteer for the Branch so I went to the lunch as a guest.

The Branch was doing a fundraising evening and they needed some helpers so my friend asked me if I would be interested in helping because I was doing events coordinating at that time.

So, I went along and helped at the event and the next thing I knew I was going along to the Branch meetings.

I had a great time at that fundraising event, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I didn’t really know much about volunteering at that stage.

But when I was asked by my friend to come along to meetings I thought, yes this sounds good. Very quickly I discovered it was a good fit for me.

I think the elections were on during my second meeting and I came home as the Branch Treasurer.

It was just the right time of my life to join Make-A-Wish. I have enjoyed it immensely.

I class it as a major honour to be welcomes into the lives of these families. It is very rewarding to meet these children and families. Sometimes it is quite tricky.

I am a crier, anyway, just ask my children. I will cry at the drop of a hat. I have definitely shed tears being a Make-A-Wish volunteer. But not just sad tears, happy tears as well.

I did have one child pass away. She was my first wish as well. She was a lovely young girl and she wanted to go to Queensland and spend time at the theme parks with her family and extended family.

Make-A-Wish got her a massive house to stay in, so that all of the family could go.

She just went to one of the theme parks as she wasn’t well enough to go to more.

It was then a fair few years later that the other volunteer on the wish let me know that she’d passed and I was very sad to hear that. She was a lovely young girl about 15. She was quiet, unassuming.

She was the same age as my daughter. I was just like wow; I could not imagine. It was my first wish but probably my hardest one, too because she was the same age as my daughter.

So they were the saddest tears.


Finding the right wish

I don’t think I have a favourite wish because they are all different.

My longest wish, because of COVID, was a lovely young boy who wanted to go to the different theme parks in Queensland and I got to know him over a long period of time.

When he first started off his wish, he didn’t know what he wanted because he was so young at that time. Then COVID shut everything down and he finally settled on going to the theme parks. I had a longstanding relationship with him and his mother and I really enjoyed that.

I had another young boy who wanted to go on a cruise. Just because he wanted to eat all the food at the different buffets.

I had a boy who wanted a computer and that was not what his mum and dad wanted. I still remember to this day that wish.

Mum did say ‘how about a holiday to Cairns’ and he said ‘I hate Cairns’ and when we asked him what his favourite food was his mum answered for him. She said pizza and he said he hated pizza.

This is where it is a little tricky sometimes, it is the child’s wish. The family have been through a shocking time but at the end of the day it is the child’s wish.

In the end he wanted a gaming computer and that’s what he got. It was fabulous to give him that.

I met a lovely young girl who met Pink. I wanted to walk in her shoes! I love Pink.


Wish gives hope to families

A wish means a hell of a lot to the kids and their families.

My most recent interview for a wish, his face just lit up when he was explaining what he wanted to do and you could just see the joy and happiness in his face and you could see it in the family’s faces as well.

The way the mum was describing how the illness had come about and what they have been through, she was saying just almost matter-of-factly.

It was definitely not a ‘woe is us’ kind of thing.

I don’t know how I would get through if I was in their shoes.

They have been through some really tough stuff and to be able to have a wish means so much to them and to the children.

They tell you. It gives them hope and takes them away from reality. Because reality has been pretty average of late.

You listen to other volunteers share their wish stories at our meetings and they say ‘so and so got a dog’ and they bring photos to show around.

I had a wish child who coloured in a booklet recently and I showed that to everyone at the meeting.


Care for the branch's volunteers

I am very passionate about my role as President, I take it very seriously and look after my volunteers.

This is my second stint as President. I have been Treasurer, Wish Granting Coordinator, Vice President and now President.

We introduced at the beginning of our meetings a check-in with everybody, because we all came together but didn’t know a lot about each other.

So, if you like to share some news from the previous month, you can.

I might say for instance ‘last month we started building our house’ or others might talk about the Ed Sheeran concert they have been to.

We share with each other. I am pleased I have introduced that.

I did something really silly at our February meeting. We actually met on Valentine’s Day and we did a fun speed dating activity.

Everyone was paired up and had a minute each to say something. Then we would report back to the branch on the person we had met.

Most of our branch members are friends on Facebook.

If you join our branch and want to be friends on Facebook then that’s fine, but if you don’t then that’s fine as well.

Everybody who wishes to have a role, has a role in the Branch. I encourage people to have and own that role.

I don’t try and takeover from anybody.

Our Fundraising Coordinator at the moment is unwell so I messaged her last night and asked if she could do the quarterly catch up and that I can do it for her but she said she has the capacity to do it. Everyone feels they are important.


'You’re getting to share in someone else’s joy'

Last year was a big year for fundraising. We had a trivia night, which was fantastic.

We all had a great time and we raised a truckload of money. We did a Bunnings barbecue, which is a lot of work. We do have a golf day planned for this year and a Ladies Lunch. We are doing the golf day in October.

The Ladies Lunch will be in the second half of the year too. People help when they can help. That’s the attitude of our volunteers. They take on wishes too when they have the capacity.

We had a couple leave through COVID but we have 18 volunteers at the minute and we have three new volunteers coming on board soon.

We also have a volunteer who was with us years ago who has decided to come back.

I would highly recommend Make-A-Wish to anyone because we have such an enjoyable time meeting as a Branch.

We have a great time in regards to fundraising. We support each other, any new volunteer has a buddy. So, if they don’t understand something at a meeting they can ask their buddy.

We all have such a great time and get along with each other. And we have the absolute honour to be involved in people’s lives. You do what you can do.

We all have a life outside Make-A-Wish so we are all trying to do a little bit when we can.

As a volunteer, there’s not a lot you need to put in.

You get to meet the wish family, then you do a report and then you do the wish presentation so there’s not a lot to put in. if you are an office bearer there’s a little more work to do.

Where else do you get to be involved in something so lovely with such excitement? It’s amazing. I know I use the word honour a bit, but you’re getting to share in someone else’s joy.

It’s been a learning curve in regards to being president. I have thoroughly enjoyed it. The impact on me, I don’t know how to answer that.

It makes you realise how lucky you are in life that you haven’t had to go through these things wish families have.

Selana has been proudly volunteering since 2016