By Jennie Pikowsky
As president and CEO of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central New York, Kuppermann often works late into the night fulfilling the mission of the foundation: to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. The organization has a staff of eight, with more than 300 volunteers in the 15 counties the chapter serves.
Twenty years later, Kuppermann notes that not much has changed within the organization. “We get one shot to make this out-of-the-world experience for our wish kids,” Kuppermann said. “No, is just not an option when you’re in the business of making dreams come true.”
Kuppermann relies almost entirely on volunteers and donors to grant each child’s wish. Volunteers, also referred to as “wish granters,” are the face of Make-A-Wish. They spend time with the child to figure out their biggest dream, she said.
“Certainly as grown-ups we have many wishes for our kids,” Kuppermann said. “But, this is the time for a kid to forget about being sick. They get to dream about anything it is that they want to do.”
On any given day, Kuppermann and her staff turn wishes into realities. Once Kuppermann accrues sufficient resources for the wish, she, along with her team, plans the event. This involves arranging transportation and lodging, booking tickets and making sure that the child has proper medical care for the event. Typically, wishes take about three to six months to fulfill, but Kuppermann and her staff have successfully turned around some wishes in 24 hours.
“It’s a privilege to be a part of this organization and it’s very humbling. An organization with one focus. It’s simple and makes an impact,” Kuppermann said.
Aside from fulfilling a child’s wish, the CEO said her most important role is fostering Make-A-Wish’s reputation within the community. “The brand stands for so much,” Kuppermann said. “For the wish kids and families, it stands for hope, joy and strength. For volunteers, it stands for the opportunity to make a difference. And for our donors, it stands for responsible stewardship.”
Without the help of the community, the organization wouldn’t be able to thrive as it does. “It’s the people over the past 20 years, the volunteers, staff and anyone that has been affiliated with us, that have helped build our brand. They’re the reason we’re successful today,” Kuppermann said.
Kuppermann may be in the business of making wishes come true, but if she has one wish, it would be that medicine puts her out of business.