(Gillette, Wyo.) Arlene Drummond and Alena Gronewold are a team. For her part, Drummond said she enjoys being around Gronewold because of her upbeat personality, and Gronewold sees her teammate as creative and full of ideas.
The pair volunteer for the Make-A-Wish foundation, which provides one true wish to children with critical illnesses.
And those wishes they grant are not just one nice thing for a child. They involve the families and medical professionals as well. The wishes provide courage to the child so they may comply with difficult medical treatments, and they give hope to the family facing a difficult challenge.
Drummond and Gronewold together first meet with the families of the children to learn every detail of the child’s wish and how the organization and its supporters can make delivering it the ultimate experience.
And they’re great at what they do.
“They’re seriously rock stars to us,” said Jenna VonHofe, communication coordinator for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Kids have such awesome imaginations. – Alena Gronewold
Drummond has been a volunteer for almost 10 years, starting in California. She moved to Gillette about eight years ago. She took a bit of a break from volunteering after she moved, but she missed working with the organization and soon got involved again.
She estimates, at three to four wishes per year, she has helped with about three dozen wishes in her entire time with the organization.
Gronewold was born and raised in Torrington and came to Gillette for work. She has been with Make-A-Wish for about a year and a half, and every wish she has ever granted has been with Drummond at her side.
Gronewold said she appreciates her teammate’s ability to be efficient with families’ time and to truly get to know a wish family while getting to the heart of a wish.
Drummond has a wealth of information and often anticipates which questions families will ask, Gronewold said, so that they can offer clear answers without overwhelming the family. She said, done right, the process of learning what wish to grant takes the family away from the medical issues and gives them something else to think about.
His mom was so happy – she gave us a big hug. – Arlene Drummond
“She has a great way of explaining,” Gronewold said of her teammate.
Sometimes, figuring out what wish to grant requires some careful skill.
“You’re not always sure where the family is in their journey,” Gronewold said.
And, of course, kids don’t always understand what is a feasible wish to grant and can ask too much.
“Kids have such awesome imaginations,” Gronewold said.
So, for example, if a child asks to go to outer space, obviously the organization can’t send them up in a rocket. So, instead, Gronewold explained, they find out what the child likes about space travel. Maybe a trip to NASA to meet astronauts and see the space shuttle is something they can provide that will bring the child the hope and joy needed.
So far, the pair have granted three wishes in the Gillette area.
Most recently, they did a wish reveal party for Connor, 6, who wished to meet Woody, his favorite character.
The parties are part of the wish granting. Before the child goes off to get their wish fulfilled, they give them a little sendoff party.
Drummond and Gronewold worked with his family to put together a memorable sendoff for Connor, including a “Toy Story”-themed cake.
“His mom was so happy – she gave us a big hug,” remembered Drummond.
She said it was rewarding to see the family’s appreciation for their wish experience. Gronewold shared how gratifying it was to see Connor go from bashful to excited at the party.
We rely on the community a lot. – Arlene Drummond
For both of them, it comes back to taking care of families at a time when they need it most.
“The best part is making wishes come true for kids who are going through something serious,” Drummond said. “We get to bring joy to them.”
Drummond gives a lot of the credit to the community and local sponsors. She said their volunteer work only coordinates the resources that make really make the wishes happen.
“We rely on the community a lot,” she said.
And she encourages others to get involved with the organization. It’s a rewarding experience.
“Getting to see their faces light up is such an awesome feeling. If you’re worried about whether your emotions will be hard to manage, you really can put that aside for that time. Also, it’s for anyone – the scheduling flexibility allows anyone to take part, whether you’re working full-time or a stay-at-home mom,” Drummond said.
She said there’s a lot of ways people can get involved with the organization. It’s not just interviewing the family, but also decorating for the parties and helping with fundraisers.
“There are so many ways to get involved,” she said.
Make-A-Wish Wyoming volunteers help make wishes come true for children with critical illnesses. They’re experts at exploring the “why” behind a wish and working with wish families to ensure a wonderful experience.
“Just do it! Don’t be afraid. It’s absolutely worth it, and you’ll be supported every step of the way. Being involved can seem daunting, but it’s really interesting to get an insider look at how wish granting happens,” Gronewold said.
To become a volunteer or learn more, visit the local website.