Wendy Symonds

NRF Wish Maker Profile (Oct. 2020)

Wendy's Words of Wisdom & Advice on being a Wish Maker

It's still a bit early for me to have profound "Words of Wisdom" and to be giving others "Advice". But I do think, as a Wish Maker, you need to have kindness, empathy, emotional strength, honesty, tenacity, and a bit of stubbornness. Sometimes it will take a lot to get through to the people you need to communicate with, but you've just got to keep on it.

And, as a new Wish Maker, it's GREAT to know you're not alone! The founder of Nik's Wish, Kelli Ritschel Boehle, has been, and continues to be my mentor. What can I say about this incredible lady! When I first met Kelli, I could not understand how she could do what she did after the loss of her son, Nik. Kelli is a force all on her own and always smiling.

To me, the time needed to fulfill a wish doesn't matter; I will do whatever I can to make that wish a reality. Compared to the extremely grueling time a young adult spends fighting cancer, my time spent on fulfilling their wish means nothing.

For me, the most challenging thing about being a Wish Maker is the loss. While you have to keep some distance from the Wisher (young adult cancer warrior) and their Wish Family, it's hard not to connect with them on some level. My first Wisher's passing was difficult for me because I really cared for her and her family.

In my brief experience as a Wish Maker, I've found the most rewarding thing is knowing my efforts resulted in making the Wisher smile; it's such a feel-good sensation!

For many, it's really hard to see these young men and women going through their cancer battles, knowing that their time on Earth is limited. But for me, I see the same young adults and want them to be happy, to be in a good place, at least for a little while; and that's what drives me. If I knew my time was limited, I think I'd be doing things differently and not caring so much about the little things. Kelli nailed it when she came up with BRING JOY, because that's just what we're here to do.

Kyle passed away at age 22, on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. Now I was a mom who had lost a young adult child to cancer; but, thanks to Nik's Wish, I still had those precious, priceless memories held fast within my heart. That's why I became a Wish Maker; to both give back and give other families a reason to smile during their extremely difficult times.
As of October, 2020, I've been a Wish Maker for just 8 months. I've fulfilled 3 wishes so far. All 3 started out as travel-wishes; but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, all 3 wishes changed to something more doable during this unusually difficult time.

Wendy's First Wisher

On my first wish assignment, I was so nervous! I got to choose my Wisher. I chose a beautiful young lady, 24-year-old Kennedy Parker. She also had Ewing's Sarcoma, so I felt a connection with her. Kennedy's Wish was to go to the 'Millennium Tour 2020' in New York City to see her favorite rapper, Omarion. That "fish out of water" feeling; yep I had it! What do I do, how do I start, what have I gotten myself into? I started Googling, searching and looking anywhere and everywhere I could. Finally, I got in touch with Omarion's people. I explained who I was and what I was doing and they were great. We got 2 tickets with backstage passes for Kennedy and her best friend to go see the show in April 2020. But then COVID-19 hit and all concerts were cancelled. Luckily though, in March, with a little help from Kelli, we got Omarion to do a shoutout to Kennedy through video messaging: https://chicago.cbslocal.com/2020/03/19/omarion-special-message-cancer-patient-kennedyparker-covid-19-coronavirus/

Kennedy was on Cloud 9. Unfortunately, she soon passed away on Thursday, July 2, 2020. I like to think that in Kennedy's last months I brought her lots of smiles.

Wendy's Second Wisher

Wendy's second Wisher is Emily Salley. She is 20, from Springfield, Missouri and was diagnosed with stage 4, Metastatic Melanoma. Emily has an ambition to become a professional singer. Her wish was to go to an opera at the Met in New York City and meet her favorite opera singer, Jonus Kaufmann. Unfortunately, COVID-19 cancelled the Met's 2020-2021 season. To help alleviate the disappointment, Wendy arranged to have Mr.Kaufmann send Emily an autographed picture, which she believes Emily received. And working with Emily's mom, Wendy also arranged a facetime call for Emily with another favorite opera singer, Joyce Didonato.

Emily pivoted her wish by trading in her Brunhilda opera helmet for a pair of fancy Mickey Mouse ears. So,
with Kelli's help, Wendy made all the arrangements for Emily, her family, and friends to enjoy Disney World.

Wendy's Third Wisher

Beatriz Jimenez is Wendy's third Wisher. Bea is 24, from Rockford, Illinois and was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Her initial wish was for a Beach Vacation with family and friends, but with COVID-19, Bea changed it to a Room Makeover. Wendy worked with Art Van Furniture of Rockford to have Bea receive over $6,000 worth of furniture for $5,700. The creative, talented, hardworking crew of Nik's Wish elves/volunteers, led by Kelli and her husband Tom, had recently finished making their Nik's Wish Genie Lamp. It was just in time for Bea's Surprise Wish Presentation on Thursday, October 8, 2020. So, as shown in this link, Bea was the first Wisher to sign her name on the Lamp: https://www.wifr.com/2020/10/09/niks-wish-helps-furnish-apartment-with-a-magical-twist/

Wendy's Current Wisher

Right now, I'm working with another Wish Maker, Kathy Reynolds, on a wish for Katelyn Slonek. Katelyn is 24, from North East, Maryland (yes, "North East" is the name of the town). She was diagnosed with Nodular Lymphocyte Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Katelyn wants to "meet" Stephen King. When I say "meet", I mean for facetime call or video message of some sort. Unfortunately, it's been nothing but crickets in response to all the mailings I've sent out. He's a very hard man to contact.

How being a Wish Maker has Helped Wendy Personally

Being a Wish Maker has helped in my grieving process over the tragic loss of my son, Kyle by giving me a bit of an escape. I love to hear someone's story. I have talked with a few Wishers at events. To listen to them tell about what they have been through and are going through is (and this may sound crazy) a bit comforting to me. I think it's because Kyle rarely spoke about his cancer and how it made him feel physically. I also think (and
I may be wrong) that it helps for a person to release their cancer story in this safe way. It's always good to get it off your chest, even if you have talked about it a lot already. To know that someone is sincerely listening to you is very reassuring. To learn of the many things they wish for is always fun to hear. I believe we've all heard of wishes that we think are really cool. For me so far, it's been the wish for a drone and also the wish for a train trip by a young man with Down syndrome. It shows how different we all are and how this horrid disease connects us. Anyway, it's helping others, staying busy, and anticipating the joyous smiles to come that makes it all worthwhile. And it's all of that which helps me on the days that are dark. It's also an incredible feeling to be able to make someone smile. My partner, Rich is proud of what I've accomplished and knows, by doing this, I'm healing. I think he's happy with that.