Sue and Greg Wetzel started volunteering for the Make-A-Wish Foundation because they wanted to give back to their community.
"Something was kind of missing in our life," Sue said. "We wanted to do something to help somebody else."
They quickly discovered that their efforts were changing their own lives as well. They found they have passion for working with families who have children facing life-threatening diseases.
Inspired by the families they meet, they challenge themselves to help grant as many wishes as they can.
"It's just been a real grounding experience," said Greg, 63, who is retired from the dental industry. "With all the negative that goes on in the media and the world-to see the courage and the love of family and friends and mothers is just absolutely amazing."
The Hilliard couple also finds working with the dedicated Make-A-Wish staff and volunteers a heartwarming experience. "What these employees do to get those children their wishes-most of them are on call for these families 24 hours a day," added Sue, 63, a retired banker.
The Wetzels, who have worked with the Columbus-based chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Greater Ohio, Kentucky & Indiana for 12 years, were named as the 2010 Volunteers of the Year.
As wish granters, the Wetzels interview children about their wishes and then deliver the good news once a wish has been granted. They provide families with their itineraries and tickets and arrange for celebrations if the wish is occurring in someone's home.
Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants wishes for children facing life-threatening illnesses, makes the necessary arrangements to fulfill the wishes using donated funds, airline miles and partnerships with Disney World and other businesses. Trips to Disney World, family vacations and room make-overs are popular wishes.
Working with the Wetzels was "amazing," said Allison Kingsley, whose four-year-old son Brett received a trip to Disney World in Orlando, Fla. "Everything they did was just perfect for him," she said. "They're just special people. They embrace all these kids."
The couple bring a unique perspective to the job because their now-40-year-old son had cancer when he was 5 years old. "We can empathize and sympathize," Greg said. "We kind of know what these families go through."
The foundation recognized the Wetzels because of their unsurpassed level of commitment to the organization, said Susan McConnell, president and CEO of the local chapter.
The Wetzels have donated hundreds of volunteer hours to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and touched the lives of more than 120 wish children during the past dozen years. They routinely request to work with children who live in the most remote areas and who have been waiting the longest for a wish, she said.
"The Wetzels are a ray of hope," McConnell said. "Their compassion, warmth and optimism give the families a healthy dose of hope when they need it most."