One volunteer in the Alaska and Washington Make-A-Wish chapter has helped grant 415 wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions.
71-year-old Ken Kieffer has been a dedicated wish-granting volunteer for 24 years. Even though the pandemic has forced many wishes to be postponed or cancelled, Kieffer has found creative and safe ways to still fulfill wishes. He is actively working on another 28 during the pandemic. This huge undertaking gives you an idea of Kieffer’s commitment, most volunteers typically grant two a year.
“Whether there’s a pandemic or not everybody likes to be loved,” said Ken Kieffer.
In mid-October, Kieffer granted 15-year-old Nekkia’s wish. Nekkia is living with a rare blood disorder, Sickle Cell Anemia. The pandemic changed her wish from a cruise to an electronic shopping spree. The Spokane Fire Department delivered the surprise on Nekkia’s birthday in eastern Washington. This included a new laptop, television, a gaming console and much more. Kieffer made sure Nekkia had the royal wish treatment every step of the way, he even joined the surprise virtually.
“Good knowing that he cares so much about us and wanted us to have the best time,” said Nekkia.
At the beginning of the year, Kieffer rolled out the red carpet for Nekkia’s 11-year-old brother Orion who is also living with sickle cell anemia. Orion’s wish was to meet his favorite professional wrestler. Their mother Erika Williams is grateful for Kieffer’s generous support.
“Means the world to know there are such kind-hearted people like him, his energy was infectious, and just the way that he wanted to give back, and be available to us, was so phenomenal, he held nothing back, he was just an open book, very connected to us our family, feels like he’s a part of our family,” said Erika Williams.
To say Kieffer is dedicated to his Wish families is an understatement. His kindness has transformed hundreds of lives. He’s even been recognized nationally as volunteer of the year, but for Kieffer, it’s not about him.
“Meet a wish kid, and meet a wish family, and then you’ll see the heroes. My personal wish is we never had to grant another one for a sick kid, but if we do, I will remain a make-a-wish volunteer for the rest of my life,” said Kieffer.
A retired attorney, Kieffer has made volunteering his full-time job. Throughout the wish process and even afterwards, Ken goes above and beyond to serve his wish families.
“If this wish were for one of my kids or grandkids, and I try to be, I don’t try to be, I am inspired and guided by that question, what would I do if it were my kid, and maybe do a little bit more,” said Kieffer.
Make-A-Wish relies on their volunteers, who are at the heart of every wish experience. The Alaska and Washington chapter typically grants about 350 wishes every year.
“He is so generous, he’s so kind and humble, the exact traits we look for in a volunteer. I think Ken remembers every single name of every single wish kid he has ever worked with, and that’s a testament to him, and that’s what the role of wish granting volunteers gives to everyone,” said Make-A-Wish Communications Manager Jessica Matthews.
Kieffer has no plans of slowing down or stopping anytime soon. Kieffer said devoting his life to volunteering has shown him what’s truly important.
“Kindness and caring, everybody needs that, everybody can give those things, you just have to want to, and I believe everybody deep in their heart wants to,” said Kieffer.
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