May 24th, 2024

Local Make-A-Wish leader honoured for 20 years of helping sick kids

By BRENDAN MILLER on May 4, 2024.

Donna Serr (far left) with the Make-A-Wish Foundation poses with students from George Davison School on May 1 during a Walk for Wishes fundraiser. Serr has been named the charity's Volunteer of the Year, Western Region for her dedication to making wishes come true for sick children.--SUBMITTED PHOTO

bmiller@medicinehatnews.com

Brendan Miller

bmiller@medicinehatnews.com

Donna Serr is often referred to as the ‘Wish Lady’ because of her instrumental role in organizing, planning and co-ordinating numerous fundraising events for the Make-A-Wish Foundation over the past 20 years.

Serr has been named the Make-A-Wish Volunteer of the Year in its western region and was recognized for her work inspiring local students and community members to give back to others.

Through her efforts Serr has raised more than $900,000 to grant wishes to sick children in Medicine Hat and the surrounding area and has helped deliver more than 60 wishes to children and their families.

“I love volunteering for Make-A-Wish,” says Serr. “I love being part of bringing joy into these family’s lives, it blesses my heart and it warms my heart.”

Serr has been inspired to give back to Make-A-Wish ever since the foundation provided a wish to her daughter Melanie, who passed away after battling a brain tumour at the age of 27.

Twenty years ago Serr was able to travel to Italy with her daughter for a week when she was 17 and healthy enough to take the trip. They chose Italy as it was the destination of a Rotary Exchange program Melanie was unable to take part in.

“So we went to Rome, Italy for a whole weekend. It was the most amazing trip,” says Serr.

Serr says from that moment she turned her passion toward the foundation.

“It’s one way of giving back,” says Serr. “Because I know what it’s like to receive a wish. It was important for me to be part of that process to be able to bring some joy and happiness into another family’s life that’s going through difficult times.

“When you have a sick child, the whole dynamics of your family changes and it’s a hard time, and when a charity like Make-A-Wish comes into your life and says to your child, ‘What would you like to wish for?’ that’s pretty special and it brings a lot of joy.”

In April, Serr helped grant the wish of a six-year old girl whose battled cancer, as Alexa English from Newfoundland and her family were flown to Alberta to reunite with family over the Easter weekend.

“It was really heartwarming for these families to be reunited again,” says Serr.

In 2008, Serr began inspiring local students by establishing the Walk for Wishes fundraiser that helps educate children on wishes that kids around their own age have received.

“I go into the schools and I do a presentation and I talk to them all about Make-A-Wish and all the wishes children in schools just like theirs have gotten,” says Serr. “And then I tell them how they can become part of making a wish come true.”

Since 2008 more than 20 local schools have participated in the Walk for Wishes fundraiser, including students from George Davison Elementary School who raised donations May 1.

“It’s children helping children, and their little hearts just reach out because they want to help,” says Serr.

Make-A-Wish established its Volunteer of the Year award in 2023 to honour significant impact through selfless dedication and commitment to serving children with critical illness.

In a press release the charity says, “Serr is a champion for kindness and generosity and passionately believes in the life-changing benefits of a wish for children with critical illness.”

And Serr says she isn’t slowing down anytime soon, and is planning to host several more Walk for Wishes fundraisers with students this fall and plans to continue her volunteer work in the region.

“I’m just very humbled and honoured,” says Serr. “Because when you you do these things, you do it from the heart and you never expect to get recognition or to be get rewarded for it. You just do it because it’s your heart.”

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