Behind The Wish - Tracey Corbett

Meet Tracey Corbett, a dedicated Make-A-Wish volunteer of 19 years.

Tracey worked next to the Make-A-Wish Sydney office. One day she walked inside and joined up.

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


Romance starts on the golf greens

I was born in Caringbah, Sydney and grew up in the Sutherland Shire. I live just outside the Shire now.

I had a brother, and then my parents divorced and I got a stepdad and he had two kids. We made it work.

My childhood was fairly smooth. A few things happened along the way, just like everyone experiences. But on the whole, I have had a good one.

I left high school in Year 10 and I went to secretarial college down in Cronulla. I had a couple of jobs here and there and then found a company that I stayed at for 30 years, in different roles.

I pretty much had three separate careers I suppose. I started off as secretary to one of the general managers then moved to the superannuation section and I morphed into a marketing coordinator role. Then that morphed into getting a role doing tenders to win contracts, which was pretty full on. All stressful jobs in their own way.

I semi-retired in 2015 and I then met my partner (pictured) through Make-A-Wish and I’m working in his small business. I do the office work for the business.

There used to be a golf day for our branch run by former professional Brett Ogle. It was a great fundraiser for us.

And one year I went along to help and he (my future partner) was there. I was looking for a table to sit at lunchtime and his table had some spare seats so I ended up sitting next to him. We got chatting, it took a while but we got there.


Tracey brings her skills to Make-A-Wish

The company I was working for, which was ING at the time, had donated office space to Make-A-Wish’s Sydney team. So, I used to walk past the office every day and I thought I have got to go in.

So, one day I did and met a lady who was one of the founding members of our branch, her name was Antoinette. So, I applied and they took me.

I was made to feel very welcome and part of the team very quickly.

I could work on things that played to my strengths, I could help organise fundraising and I became Secretary of the Branch very early on and continued for many years.

I do like fundraising. I am no good at asking people for things but I am good at sending out letters. I love the organising side of it, that was always my forte. Sending out letters, keeping a track of everything, that sort of thing.

I was lucky as a child, no one I knew got sick. And I think I realised how lucky that was. And it’s horrible to think of children being sick.

I remember a wish with Wollongong Branch, this little boy had been in hospital and he’d written a movie. I think he was a superhero.

And he wanted to have his movie made. So, we went down to help him film this movie and all his friends were involved. They produced the movie and then had this most amazing opening night at a local cinema.

There was red carpet and all his friends and family were there. He was walking the red carpet with his friends and then we all watched the movie. They set up an autograph table outside so he was signing programs. That was a lovely, imaginative, and wonderful wish.

Just seeing his wish come to life was just incredible. Seeing his face, it brought tears to your eyes.

Just seeing him so happy at the end, he was so cool with his sunnies on and signing autographs.


Seeing 'wow moments' up close

Just before COVID, little Penelope wanted a cubby house.

The thing that really stuck out with this one was the Wish Coin we give, which we give to all wish kids.

Penelope (pictured below) had taken the Wish Coin and buried it in the backyard after her dad said to Penelope ‘if you wish really, really hard your wish might come true’.

The next day everyone snuck around to the backyard and she stayed inside and this cubby house emerged.

When she ran outside it was incredible to see her face. It was a real wow moment for her. Her wish came true and you couldn’t wipe the smile off her face. She was in there, jumping around and it was beautiful.

There was another wish where this mum had a 17-year-old. This was a bit heartbreaking. The mum was on her own, the child was non-verbal and couldn’t do anything for himself.

She wanted a three-wheeler so she could take him to the beach and get him involved down there.

I just kept thinking of this poor woman coping with it all by herself. She wrote a book about it.

The wish meant a lot, it meant she could get him out of the house and down to the beach.

It was a chance to get him involved with other kids at the beach. It meant the world to her and to him.


'I don't think the wish actually ends'

These parents are inspirational. They have not only got a sick child, but they have also usually got other children as well.

How they manage to keep going and keep the faith and put one foot in front of the other every day is truly remarkable.

It must just take some special strength of character but they are your kids and you do anything for them, I suppose, and just keep going.

Another special wish was a little boy, who wanted to meet Hugh Jackman.

And of course, I never wanted to meet Hugh Jackman (*laughs*) …. so that one stuck in my mind because I got to go to it.

As you can imagine, Hugh was just wonderful.

He spent so long with the wish boy. Hugh was happily signing everything and talking, he spent over an hour with him telling stories and answering questions.

He was so nice and welcoming. That meant everything to the wish boy, all he wanted to do was meet Wolverine.

His little face was so happy. I think his eyes were popping out. He was overwhelmed. It took him a while to become at ease.

When you have done a wish, you are on a high and you can’t wipe the smile off your face because it’s just been so beautiful.

Everyone is so happy and the child is taken away from whatever medical challenge they are going through.

Some of them might be a bit shy and don’t show it, but you can see it in their eyes they are thrilled and so excited. And also, so grateful and can’t thank you enough for what you have done for them.

The parents too, it takes them away for a little while from what they are going through.

There are different stages. There’s the lead up to the wish, the anticipation, and then it’s here and they are so excited. And they get the joy of experiencing whatever it is afterwards.

Especially if it’s something they have at home: some go on shopping sprees or have their bedroom done up.

Or they look at the photos from their holiday. I don’t think the wish actually ever ends for them. It lasts a lifetime.


Being part of something special

I think Make-A-Wish makes me quite grateful that none of my friends’ kids or grandkids now, nieces, nephews, have never had to deal with that. I am so grateful to be part of it, to be able to help.

It’s just a privilege to bring some joy to these families.

Even if you’re not on a wish yourself, you’re talking about it at a branch meeting and you are seeing the photos, and that’s wonderful as well.

You still feel a part of it. You still get the warm and fuzzies.

I think we have been very lucky with the volunteers we have had over the years. Everyone has been engaged and willing to go the extra mile for everything.

People have brought different skills along the way. I think it’s a really good crew at the moment.

A few of us have held roles for a while because no one put their hand up, but there’s been a changing of the guard lately.

Some new people who have wanted to put their hand up. It’s been nice to see what other people can bring to the roles within the branch.

I was mainly Secretary but I was the President for a couple of years so that was interesting. It’s just trying to make sure everyone is OK, and dealing with any issues. I think probably Secretary and Wish Granting Coordinator are the busiest roles.

I did reach 19 years and I do feel proud. It doesn’t actually seem like that long. I am proud but it’s just been easy, it hasn’t been an effort.

I think that’s why I am still here. I just love doing it and I get so much out of it. It’s just what I do.

It’s part of my life and I can’t see myself giving it up. It’s fulfilling being a small part of something which makes children smile.

I tell people we grant wishes for children with potentially life-threatening illnesses. And we do fundraising to support that.

I think the Make-A-Wish brand is well-known. It’s on the radio all the time now. And I have seen the signs at bus stops so more people are now going ‘oh yeah Make-A-Wish’.

Make-A-Wish puts things into perspective. You think you are having a bad day and then you think of families going through far worse than you. Makes you realise how lucky you are. It’s quite grounding.

Tracey has been proudly volunteering since 2004