The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Connecticut granted almost 200 adventures and other thrilling experiences for seriously ill children in our state last year.
But its executive team is eager to reach more children, particularly in urban and rural communities, where participation has been less robust.
The organization has asked that School of Business alumni help strategize ways to boost awareness of Make-A-Wish, and increase participation. The non-profit has a $30,000 grant which it can use to implement the plans.
“Nothing can prepare a family for the unimaginable trauma of watching a child struggle with a critical illness,” said Kristen Moran, Director of Marketing and Communications for Make-A-Wish Connecticut. “Wishes not only provide a respite from doctors and hospital visits, but from the moment a child learns they will have a wish granted they have hope and can build the physical and emotional strength to fight.”
The Office of External and Alumni Engagement at the School of Business is sponsoring the case competition, which begins soon. Alumni can join as part of a team of four, as a ‘free agent’ who will be placed with a team, or as an individual competitor.
“We hope this helps us tap into great minds and identify more ideas for expansion,” said Tara Navara, Chief Development Officer at Make-A-Wish Connecticut. “We’re excited to learn from UConn alumni and to benefit from their expertise.”
This is the second year that the School of Business has offered a Global Alumni Case Competition. Last year’s event, which involved developing initiatives for Connect-Us Inc., a Bridgeport non-profit serving youth, was extremely popular with alumni.
“We listened to feedback from last year’s participants and made a few adjustments to the structure of this case competition, which we think will make it easier to participate,” said Jillian Comolli, assistant director of the Office of External and Alumni Engagement at the School of Business.
“The case competition is a unique avenue for alumni from all disciplines at UConn to come together, refresh skills, and help out the Connecticut community in doing so,” she said.
The deadline for team registration is Jan. 31; individual registration deadline is Feb. 6. Participants will learn more about the organization and its objectives, then have about a month to brainstorm ideas and create a final report, due March 1.
Members of the winning team will each receive a customizable $200 prize pack of UConn gear, tickets to the 2023 School of Business Hall of Fame celebration, and social media publicity. To learn more about the competition, please visit: https://s.uconn.edu/2023alumcasecomp
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UConn alumnus George Barrios ’89, founder and co-CEO of Isos Capital Management and formerly the co-President of WWE, is the national Board Chairman of Make-A-Wish, and he suggested the UConn partnership. His wife, alumna Carol (Marques) Barrios ’88, is also active in the organization as a wish granter. Wish granters work with families to identify a child’s wish and how it can be delivered.
Make-A-Wish Connecticut, based in Trumbull, Conn., was founded in 1986 to grant wishes to local children with critical illnesses. The Connecticut chapter has its own board, and budgets, and raises funds independently of the national chapter. Often people assume that celebrities and corporations fund the program, when in fact honorary donations, memorials, and lemonade stands are the primary source of income, Navara said.
Since its inception, Make-A-Wish Connecticut has granted 3,800 wishes to children, including: a trip to Hawaii, a shopping spree, a day spent as an acting firefighter, a puppy, money for college tuition, creating a charity, and building a healing garden at a hospital.
“Many people think we are granting ‘last wishes,’ and that’s simply not true,” Navara said. “We hope to instill the excitement and joy that helps children through a difficult time and gives them something to look forward to. Many, many of our children recover from their illnesses and go on to lead full lives.”
“We want to know how we can take the magic of Make-A-Wish, disseminate it, dispel myths, find and benefit people, and move to action,” she said, noting that the teams may consider language, cultural, and geographic barriers to access. “This project is a think-tank, essentially, that will help us increase visibility and engagement in targeted communities and help us draw more volunteers from them.”
The organization plans to implement the winning proposal and has a potential donor willing to give generously.
“Depth of thought is very critical to our success,” Navara said. “We have an opportunity to secure a repeat, multi-year gift, so our success with this project has many implications for future funding as well.”