As a Leader for Southwest Airlines, I was given the opportunity to create a Make-A-Wish Team to assist in helping Make-A-Wish grant wishes and create a memorable experience for families from their first step into the airport.
As we created the Southwest PHX Team, I wanted to make sure the right people were in place for the job, knowing how important these trips and events would be to these wonderful children, and I knew Southwest Employees would embrace this opportunity. Our Employees across the nation assist wish families on a weekly basis, and we do everything in our power to go above and beyond in making their trip stress-free and fun. I couldn’t have known when starting this Team that these amazing kids and their families would ignite everyone with energy, enthusiasm, and even more compassion.
The PHX Make-A-Wish Team agreed that our goal was to simplify the airport experience, start the Wish trip from the moment they came to the airport, and show these families how much we LUV having them travel with us! With this as our mantra, the enthusiasm and creativity spread, so we were able to make every trip a memorable experience for these Make-A-Wish families.
To remind ourselves how we make a difference each and every day, our local in-house artists made a Make-A-Wish bulletin board in the back room where we post photos of each Wish child we get to meet—we have a lot of smiling faces on the board! We supply gift bags as giveaways and solicit donations from SWA Employees to fill them so that each Wish kid and their siblings leave with something fun. To help fund our surprises, we have a few fundraisers each year, including a candy dispenser in the break room, bake sales, and generous donations from our entire Team.
To make the Wish travel day special, we start a weekly communication process with our local Make-A-Wish chapter who sends us travel information ahead of time. This allows us to tailor the assistance to the families’ unique needs and make sure we are never surprised or unready to help make a wish come true. This is serious business! On the day of the Wish, the family skips all lines. Our designated escort accompanies them from start to finish and provides a magical day to our VIP guests and families. This includes their welcome, their gift bags, their personal escort, and a tour of the airport and cockpit, if possible. Announcements are made at the gate where smiles become contagious.
We take so much pride and personal ownership in the experience, and we want to acknowledge the true Warriors here, who are the Wish kids and their families. Of course, Southwest Employees always wear their Servant’s Hearts proudly and on Wish days they are illuminated like runway lights! We feel so blessed and fortunate to be a part of this extraordinary journey and so proud of our Company for supporting such a worthwhile organization like Make-A-Wish. The energy, spirit, and enthusiasm shown in spite of their illnesses have become a true beacon for all of us. At the end of the day, we realize that all our hard work and dedication has paid off, and we realize the gifts that we bestow pale in comparison to the gifts that we receive by being a part of this wonderful experience. Our Team is forever grateful for this honor! Now that’s a wish come true.