Make a Wish and Irish Dogs for the Disabled – A Volunteer's Work

In our ongoing series called Mykidstime Salutes, where we honour organisations or individuals making a difference to families or children, I recently spoke to Al Oliver in Cork about the amazing volunteering work she does for two charities, what it involves and how much time, why she decided to volunteer and what our readers can do to help.

Tell me about the volunteer work you do for Make A Wish and Irish Dogs for the Disabled

I'm Lead volunteer in Cork for Make A Wish (MAW) which means I'm the point of contact between the office in Dublin and all the other Cork volunteers. I've been doing this for a year now.

The role is varied and I might be out on a wish, organising meetings or fundraisers, collecting a cheque from schools that have fundraised for us or perhaps giving a talk to people about what we do in Make A Wish so one week is never the same as the other.

I joined the Board of Irish Dogs for the Disabled (IDFD) to help give financial advice to the other board members but quickly became aware that as it is a small and fairly new charity they would need a little more help. I have helped set up a database out there and also to redesign the website which is about to go live – just have a few more tweaks to go!

At the moment I just don't have time for anything else but I would love to do some volunteer work with a cancer charity at some stage as my mum died ten years ago from ovarian cancer and I would just like to help others who are going through what we went through then.

How long have you been doing this for and how much of your week does it take up?

I have been volunteering for Make A Wish for 3 years now and with Dogs for the Disabled since December 2011. At the moment I go out to IDFD for one day a week then I might have other things to do from home. With Make a Wish the workload depends on what we're doing at a particular time so some weeks are busier than others.

What made you decide to do this and why for these charities in particular?

My own children had grown up and I had some free time on my hands so had a look around the Volunteer Ireland website. I noticed MAW were looking for wish granters so I applied.

I love children and having been a parent of two very healthy children I just couldn't imagine what it would be like to spend so much time in a hospital with my child – how can a parent cope with that on a daily basis?

Most of our Wish Children have siblings as well so the whole family life is disrupted. I just thought if I could help in any way to give the families something to look forward to away from doctors and hospitals it would be a nice thing to do.

With IDFD, Jennie (the CEO) called me to ask if I would consider joining the board to help with financial advice so I agreed but the more I became involved the more I could see the amazing work she does with the dogs. We have children who thought they would never walk without a frame who are now walking along with only their dog. And some complaining that the dog is now too slow for them smiley

Besides fund raising is there any help that our readers can give to these charities?

Well for the IDFD we are regularly looking for puppy socialisers. They would take a puppy into their home for a year and get them used to people, noises, places etc before they begin their training. We are always delighted to hear from anyone that might like to take this on!

Also we are always looking for people to help on our flag days for an hour or to be an emergency home for our puppies when our regular socialisers are on holiday. Of course, as we are quite a new charity, it would be great to get our name out there a little so any social media help for us would be very gratefully received. smiley On Twitter we are @DogsforDisable1

With MAW people might have skills or a service that they can offer us to help make a wish "special". For example last year I had a little boy in Cork who wished to be a King for the day and a crowd of people came from Barryscourt Castle in Carrigtwohill dressed in full Medieval Costume complete with a Hawk!

If you would like to help these great charities please get in touch using the links above.

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Sian Phillips is the Managing Editor of Tweak Your Biz. Sian is a qualified accountant and has an honours diploma in Journalism too. She is either content editing, accounting or writing on any given day.