Adelaide's own Wish Man
Frank Jackowiak helped start Adelaide's Make-A-Wish Branch in 1986. Thirty four years later he's still moved by the power of a wish.
Making lives brighter
Frank Jackowiak is perhaps better known amongst colleagues and friends as the ‘Wish Man’ of Adelaide.
He helped start the Adelaide Branch of Make-A-Wish in 1986. And ever since, he’s gone about making wishes come true for critically ill children with no fuss or fanfare. In fact, he prefers to see praise heaped on others.
Fellow Adelaide-based volunteer Jessica Zammit says, “What I love about Frank is how humble he is. His achievements are outstanding. I find it hard to describe just how much of an impact he has had on our branch and community over the years.”
Jessica said Frank’s “long list” of achievements include establishing the annual Adelaide Make-A-Wish Gala Ball.
“What makes Frank so remarkable is all of the lives he has made a little brighter over the years. He is truly inspiring,” she said.
Mates resolve to help local kids
Frank’s Make-A-Wish journey started one day in 1986 after he’d just been for a run with good mate John Hender.
“I was driving home and heard Make-A-Wish Australia founder Eveline Rigbye on the radio,” he said.
“She had established Make-A-Wish Australia a few months earlier in Melbourne, in November 1985.
“I was quite inspired and having healthy kids, I thought I should do something for sick kids.
“As soon as I got home, I rang John, and his first words were ‘I know exactly what you are going to say’. He had the radio on at home. I said ‘what do you reckon?’, and he said ‘it sounds good’.”
Four months later, in May 1986, the Adelaide Branch of Make-A-Wish was born.
Gold Coast wish stands out
The Adelaide Branch’s first wish was for a local teen named Jamie. His wish was to travel to Sydney to see his best friend, which Frank recalls was “a great wish; it worked out really well.”
Since that first wish, Frank estimates he has been involved in “a couple of hundred” more wishes.
While every wish is unique, one that continues to stand out in Frank’s memory was a young girl, aged about 14, who wished to see a rainforest in North Queensland.
Her wish experience was booked for May, but on a Monday in early April, her medical specialist called Frank to say her health was deteriorating. Her wish was now much more urgent, and the doctor recommended it should happen within days.
Frank left work immediately, cancelled the flights and accommodation booked for Cairns, and made new bookings on the Gold Coast where the family could be close to a major hospital.
“We called the wish child’s family, and they were all on the plane the next day,” he said.
“It was Easter, and all the theme parks were closed, but SeaWorld agreed to do a special show for her on Good Friday. She saw dolphins and went on water slides, she really had a great time.
“On the Saturday she didn’t have a very good day health-wise, she struggled. And on Easter Monday she went home.”
Sadly, the young girl died the next day.
“Because I was so involved in all of it, the last-minute stuff, and the feedback from her parents about SeaWorld opening up for her… it’s one of those wishes that really stays in your mind.”
The 'unsung hero'
Frank’s partner both in life and his Make-A-Wish ventures has been wife, Helen.
He describes Helen as an “unsung hero” who officially started volunteering in 1989 too, contributing “so much” mostly in the background.
“My name might get out there occasionally, but behind it all is Helen,” he said.
“She’s not one for taking up formal positions, but she does a lot of prep stuff for events and especially emails and computers, because I’m a dinosaur and never really took on computers,” he said.
“Without her, I would be totally lost.”
Frank keeps on keeping on
After 34 years as one of Make-A-Wish Australia’s longest serving volunteers, Frank says he has no plans to take off his Make-A-Wish hat.
He is buoyed by the recent change to split the original Adelaide volunteer base into three local branches and looking forward to the annual Adelaide Gala Ball in May 2021.
After many years taking on branch leadership roles, Frank, aged 65, is content to see others rise through the ranks.
“I want people to have the opportunity to take on positions of responsibility. That’s how you grow,” he said.
“But I still feel emotion for the wishes.
“I think if I didn’t, I probably should quit.
“I just get a kick out of being able to do something special for kids that you know, a lot of the time, won’t be around for too long. And when you look at what their parents are going through, and what the kid’s going through with all the hospital visits and time away from school and friends … whatever small thing you can do for them, you make it happen.”
What makes Frank so remarkable is all of the lives he has made a little brighter over the years. He is truly inspiringJessica Zammit, Adelaide Make-A-Wish volunteer
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The Wish Journey
How a wish comes to life
Make-A-Wish volunteers visit each child to capture their greatest wish, getting to the heart of what kids truly want and why. This profound insight is part of what makes Make-A-Wish unique, giving children full creative control and helping to shape their entire Wish Journey.
Back at Make-A-Wish HQ, we partner with families, volunteers and medical teams to design the ultimate wish experience - and start rallying our partners and supporters to help make it happen.
In the lead up to the wish, we take each child on a journey designed to build excitement and provide a welcome distraction from medical treatment. Anticipation can be incredibly powerful, helping to calm, distract and inspire sick kids at a time they need it most.
When the moment finally arrives, children get to experience their greatest wish come true - it's everything they've imagined and more. Pinch yourself, and don't forget to take a breath and enjoy every precious moment!
Wish impact studies show that a child's wish lives on, long after the moment. A wish gives more than just hope – with an incredible and lasting effect on the lives of sick kids, their families and wider communities.
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