Meet Arianna Duran and Rayna Zurkic, wish granters at Make-A-Wish® Northeastern California and Northern Nevada. I recently got the opportunity to interview both of them separately about their volunteer work for our organization, and it suddenly dawned on me that these two amazing women are SISTERS! I knew right then and there that I just had to write about their experience.
Their journey with Make-A-Wish began seven years ago when Rayna interned for the Make-A-Wish® Greater Bay Area chapter in the Corporate Development Department. Rayna encouraged her entire family to get involved and become volunteers like her. She even established a local group with Arianna called, “Wish Makers on Campus” at Pacific Union College in Angwin. From then on, Rayna and Arianna moved to Northern California for work and family, but have always managed to maintain great relations with a Make-A-Wish chapter through volunteering.
When I asked Arianna what wish stood out the most to her in all her years of experience, she told me about the first wish she was ever a part of. “My mom, sister, and I were just three out of thousands of volunteers who had the honor of being part of Kassandra’s day,” she said. “Kassandra wished to be a singer and about 300 cheering fans stood outside a hotel in San Francisco while Kassandra walked the red carpet to her new single release party in the ballroom where over 2,000 fans cheered her on while holding signs and posters with her name on them. Being a part of Kassandra’s wish and being able to see her so happy was a moment I will cherish forever.”
“To me, no celebrity will ever compare,” stated Rayna in regards to her wish kids. Rayna went on about how she loves being a wish granter for our Northeastern California and Northern Nevada chapter because of the personal interactions she gets to make, saying “It is an honor to welcome each child with open arms to the Make-A-Wish family. I am so blessed to meet, socialize, find out what their wish is and be able to surprise them with an experience of a lifetime. Every moment spent with my wish kiddos is a gift.”
These women have seen firsthand how a wish affects a child in a positive way. I asked them to tell me about their experiences in witnessing the impact of a wish, and Arianna said, “Make-A-Wish brings light to the end of the tunnel for most of the Wish Kids. A majority of the time it gives the kiddos a reason to keep fighting their sickness and determination to get better. It gives the children something to look forward to and to keep their mind off of being sick. As Wish Granters, I know that we try and make every Wish Child feel so special because they are and they deserve to be treated like a every other kid no matter what they look like, what machine they are hooked up to or what disability they may have. Make-A-Wish does a great job in making them feel welcomed, loved and special.”
In asking if they would recommend others to get involved at Make-A-Wish, both women immediately said “YES!” Rayna described how Make-A-Wish would be a fantastic organization for “heart-warming individuals who have a driven passion to make a difference in children’s lives”. Similarly, Arianna told me about how there are a variety of ways people can help out. “If you don’t have the calling to be a Wish Granter, just know that there are plenty of other opportunities to get involved. Whether that be volunteering for an event, raising funds through your work or at your school or by just spreading the good word of what Make-A-Wish does, helps make a difference.”
As you can see, it takes a copious amount of hard work to turn these wishes into real life, memorable experiences. Our local chapter could not be more grateful to have Arianna Duran and Rayna Zurkic on our team- thank you for your continuous dedication!