53 - Our Make-A-Wish Alliance

The Chi Omega and Make-A-Wish Alliance

In the late 1990’s all National Panhellenic organizations began a Philanthropy Day during recruitment to highlight the many endeavors Greek women were pursuing as contributions to the world. Our Chi Omega chapters showcased many different philanthropies that directly helped the chapter’s local community through events, fundraising, and activities that were hands-on. However, our chapters often found it challenging to present their philanthropy in unique and professional ways and would regularly seek help from our national headquarters staff.

“The Governing Council was aware of the challenges our chapters faced,” says Mary Ann Frugé, S.H. 1998-2004 during the establishment of the partnership, “After much thought and discussion, the Governing Council made the decision to adopt a philanthropy that would be national in scope and give all of our chapters a unifying approach to philanthropy.”

Epsilon Alpha/Oklahoma

The criteria for a national community service alliance were simple and were the following: The philanthropy must be respected and ethical, address issues pertaining to women or children, and be willing to partner with Chi Omega in a mutually beneficial way.

Requests for proposals were sent to every national philanthropy that met these criteria and resulted in a large number of responses. The Governing Council and executive staff of the Fraternity and Foundation studied the proposals and chose three to make a presentation. These three included The American Heart Association, The March of Dimes, and Make-A-Wish. All presentations were outstanding, but ultimately the Governing Council and executive staff all ranked Make-A-Wish first of the three, thus beginning the partnership between Chi Omega and Make-A-Wish!

Epsilon Alpha/Oklahoma

“When Chi Omega was searching for an organization to partner with leaders in the Fraternity really connected with Make-A-Wish because it was an organization that our women could not only donate money to, but also actively participate in sharing the mission of Make-A-Wish, raising money alongside Sisters, meeting the families, and seeing the impact made on the child when the wish is granted. The ability for our local collegiate chapters to partner with the local offices of Make-A-Wish was also appealing. The local support and guidance was exciting because we knew it could mean more success for our collegians’ endeavors,” says Missy Pask, S.M. and Make-A-Wish liaison.

Nu Beta/Alabama

Once chosen, the process began with Make-A-Wish executives visiting our Executive Headquarters and members of our staff and the Governing Council visiting MakeA-Wish’s headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona. Issues discussed and decided upon dealt with, among other things, trademarks, responsibilities of each organization to the partnership, and appropriate marketing of merchandise with the trademarked logos.

Chi Omega and Make-A-Wish both established an understood goal to make life better for many, many recipients of wishes. Knowing that this partnering is a vehicle for such a goal is gratifying to all involved and, in turn, enriches the lives of our collegiate and alumnae members as well.

A wish granted not only provides hope, strength, and joy to a child and their family, but it can provide a wish child with the ability and willingness to comply with difficult medical treatments, and the hope gained by that wish often improves a child’s physical health.

“Make A Wish is an incredible partnership for Chi Omega because it has the impact and the story that we can share. By making these dreams come true for wish kids and their families our young women are seeing it on the ground level and helping first-hand. This opportunity to serve opens our members’ eyes to what they can do to help others now and beyond their four years in college,” says Missy Pask.

Eta Gamma/South Carolina

In 2002 Chi Omega officially presented the new national community service alliance at the Chi Omega Convention. A presentation jointly shared by Chi Omega and Make-A-Wish coupled with remarks by previous wish recipients illustrated the plan to our membership who eagerly welcomed this national community service alliance, giving each chapter, collegiate and alumnae, a connection with all other Chi Omega chapters. Our members saw they could enrich the lives of numerous children and young people in meaningful ways. Moreover, our chapters immediately knew they could participate in hands-on service by granting wishes as well as fundraising to provides wishes.

“I am proud of the money we donate annually, but more so the hands-on volunteer hours that we give back every year says a lot about what our women want to give back and how they want to connect,” says Missy Pask.

Lambda Zeta/Missouri – Kansas City

“My personal pride in this partnering with Make-A-Wish takes many forms. First, Chi Omega members continue to be involved personally with recipients of a wish, thus continuing our devotion to hands-on service. The funds raised provide innumerable wishes. Additionally, the leadership of many Chi Omegas has made this a reality. Two alumnae, Peggy Rinehart, then S.M. and Sarah Thornton, then Director of Alumnae, gave tirelessly in the early years to establish this national community service alliance and continue to be commended for their commitment to this partnering,” says Mary Ann Frugé.

Since the start of this alliance, Chi Omega has raised more than 20 million dollars and has volunteered over 1,000,000 hours for Make-A-Wish. Because of this commitment, they recognize Chi Omega as one of their Cause Champion sponsors. Sisters plan annual events to raise money, raise awareness, and celebrate their wish kid. Whether through Walk for Wishes, cookouts, donut parties, or any clever spin on the traditional fundraiser our women take pride in the partnership we’ve fostered with Make-A-Wish.

Chi Omega Fraternity members have given their time and talent to provide service to others since 1895, but Chi Omega’s partnership with Make-A-Wish has created immense opportunities for our chapters to individually work with children and families across the nation. One Sister, Marisa Maldonado, a 2018 graduate from Phi Epsilon/Ball State and first-year National Leadership Consultant, knows the impact that Chi Omega’s work makes from diverse perspectives.

A Sister’s Story

Written by Marisa Maldonado

For the past ten years, Make-A-Wish has been a part of my life. In September of 2008, my younger brother Martin, who was 3 at the time, had been diagnosed with Stage IV brain cancer. After a year full of hospital visits, surgeries, treatments, and tears Martin was granted his wish.

My family was able to take a Disney Cruise with Martin, and although we were not expecting it, Martin’s wish quickly became so much more than just a vacation to us. When we returned from the trip we carried more than just our fresh tans and souvenirs. We carried with us a refreshed outlook on life and our situation. We were recharged and ready to keep fighting for Martin. It was an opportunity for our family to feel “normal” again, even if for just a short while. It was a chance for us to make memories together outside of hospital waiting rooms, laughing and experiencing new things together that we hadn’t had the chance to do in far too long.

Marisa with her brother, Martin, left, and two other brothers, right

Seven years after Martin’s diagnosis, I went through sorority recruitment at Ball State University. I didn’t understand the process and was worried that I wouldn’t end up where I was supposed to be. When I walked into Chi Omega I felt a connection instantly, then I found out about their partnership with Make-A-Wish and that connection was amplified. It felt like it was too good to be true. Throughout the process, I got to share my passion for Make-A-Wish and learn more about the work Phi Epsilon was doing for the organization as well. The women were passionate about the cause and their empathy for the families and children they were working for was contagious. I knew I had to be a part of it. I spent the next four years with Phi Epsilon raising money, granting wishes, and sharing Make-A-Wish with Ball State’s students.

Marisa and Phi Epsilon Sister, Sara Gibbons, at Phi Epsilon’s 2018 event, Yippie Chi O

During the fall semester of my junior year, I interned at the Indianapolis office of Make-A-Wish as a Wish Program Intern. Here I was able to assist with wish planning and communication between the wish team, volunteers, and medical professionals.

Marisa at the Big Wish Gala, 2018

The coolest part of this experience was the full circle feeling I had when I found out I would be working with Jennifer Ulsomer, the coordinator who granted my brothers wish in 2009! I was able to share how much that experience meant to my family, then turn around and begin creating those opportunities for other families as well. Upon the completion of my internship, I was hired as a temporary Wish Program Associate. As a WPA I coordinated and granted wishes for kiddos all across Indiana and Kentucky. They included trips to Disney, a room makeover, prom experiences, deep sea fishing, shopping sprees, and many more.

Marisa and her brother Martin at the 2017 Make-A-Wish Callathon
Marisa and her brother Martin at the 2018 Make-A-Wish Polo event

While I was working at Make a Wish I was constantly reminded of how special it is that we as Chi Omegas are lucky enough to be partnered with such an incredible organization, fundraising and volunteering to make life-changing moments for kids happen all over the United States… kids just like my brother Martin.

Marisa’s story is just one of the countless connections Chi Omegas have fostered with Make-A-Wish over the years. To check out more ways our Sisters are impacting children and families across the nation and how you can get involved head over to https://wish.org/content/chi-omega/chi-omega.