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Wish Blog

Dec 13, 2019

Volunteer Spotlight: Joe Sanger

Joe Sanger
When Joe Sanger retired, he made a deal with himself. “I wasn’t just going to write checks anymore,” he explains. “I was going to do.”

When a friend invited him to join a wish-granting training, Sanger was happy for the opportunity to give back to his community. It only took one wish-granting experience for him to fall completely in love with Make-A-Wish. “The look on those kids’ faces was just unbelievable,” he says. “What a miracle it is.”  

Through Make-A-Wish, he was matched up with a wish-granting partner, Brenda Yamashita, and they have been granting wishes together ever since, for an incredible 19 years. 

Sanger’s favorite part is checking in with the family after they have their wish experience. “Those phone calls that I make afterward, they’re unbelievable!” he says. “The kids are so happy, they’re bouncing off the walls.” He loves to chat with the families and hear all about their big adventures. 

Looking back on his 19 years as a wish granter, Sanger says he has too many beautiful memories to count. Sanger has often found himself taken aback by how daring and creative wish requests can be. 

He recalls a wish granted for a young girl named Morgan. When he and his partner arrived for their initial wish visit, her parents informed them that since she’d already been to Disneyland, her wish would probably be to go to Disney World. Everyone was blown away when, after her wish interview was conducted, Morgan entered the room with a huge smile on her face and proudly announced: “I want to feed the giraffes.” Soon after, Morgan and her family were headed to the San Diego Zoo, where she had the chance to feed not just the giraffes, but just about every animal in the place. She spent two full days at the zoo and had an amazing time. On his follow-up call with Morgan, Sanger recalls her telling him “JoJo, I’ve got a problem. Giraffes are not supposed to be that big!” 

On another wish, Sanger helped a young boy named Eli determine his wish to visit his hometown of Boston and attend a Red Sox game. Eli had a very clear vision for his wish—he wanted to make sure he sat right behind the home plate so that he could hear what all of the catchers and umpires had to say. Eli and his family were very excited when, about 30 minutes in, they started to get calls from friends on the West Coast who were watching the game live and could see them on TV!

“He dared Eli to dream big on what life could deliver to him, and he made it come true,” says Eli’s mother, Lisa. “Because of Joe, along with countless medical procedures and ordeals, one of Eli’s strongest childhood memories will be sitting in the front row of Fenway with his best friend, watching the Red Sox. It is an unforgettable memory for our family brought to us with the help of this unforgettable man.”  

On his most recent wish in 2019, Sanger accompanied 17-year-old Palega and his family on a shopping spree. He was thrilled to see the excitement in all seven of Palega’s family members as they were running around picking out items for Palega to try on or check out. “It was just amazing,” he says. “The whole family, I’ve never seen smiles like that. I think [the wish] affects everyone in the family as much as it does the wish kid.”  

Sanger says that he is thrilled to see first-hand the huge impact that having a wish granted can have a child who is going through a very tough time their life. “You guys work miracles,” he says. “The healing that you give these kids by granting these wishes is just amazing. That’s why I keep doing what I do. I just absolutely love it.” 

Join us as a volunteer and be a real-life superhero! Volunteers are essential to our commitment to bring hope, strength, and joy into the lives of children battling life-threatening illnesses.

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