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Matt Terry

Breaking the Ice Helps Wish-Granter Bring Joy

You’ll have to forgive Matt Terry if he had an early moment of doubt. He’d barely left the garage as a Make-A-Wish® volunteer when he felt a thunk in his wish-granting engine.

Matt TerryDuring his first wish, the wish kid’s father didn’t want to accept charity. He didn’t want any handouts in taking his son to Walt Disney World® Resort. It was his family, and he would provide. Only the persistence of the rest of the family allowed Make-A-Wish Western New York to help.

But an amazing wish experience at the Magic Kingdom won over the boy’s father. When Terry greeted the family at the airport after their trip, the man wrapped him in a bear hug. He thanked Terry and Make-A-Wish for making things possible that he couldn’t do on his own.

“It was like a different person,” Terry says.

That’s what a wish experience can accomplish, and seeing it first-hand is still a thrill for Terry after eight years as a wish-granter.

Terry, 37, has participated in dozens of wishes: He’s sent children off to exotic destinations, to meet their idols, on shopping sprees, the entire array of wish choices. Each, he says, produces the magic that motivates him to juggle up to three wishes at once and give so freely of his time.

Granting wishes gives Terry, a salesman for an electrical equipment distributor, a chance to draw on his palette of talents. He’s in sales mode when he speaks to local clubs about the Foundation and its mission. During a wish, he might have to draw on his training as an artist to arrange visits to artists’ studios or a shopping spree at nearby art stores.

“You end up using every talent you have,” Terry says.

One of the most important skills for a wish-granter, he explains, is engaging younger wish children. Breaking the shyness barrier can be hard, especially when children feel like everyone is watching them. Even after breaking the ice, helping discover a child’s true wish can be tricky.

Now that he trains new wish-granters, he punctuates that point by putting them on the spot: He’ll ask what they might pick — and most will freeze, waver, hesitate. It’s a perfect way to show how wish children might feel when complete strangers are asking questions about their fondest desires. He teaches them to balance sensitivity and persistence to make sure each of their wish kids gets an experience that will bring joy to the children’s lives.

Terry is driven to give wish kids something to look forward to, and he revels in volunteering for an organization that provides fuel for the kids’ hopes and dreams.

“You have to make a wish happen, and you have the network to get it done,” he says. “Then you get to see the child’s face light up.”