Being a Make-A-Wish Foundation wish granter is a whole lot like being an elf.
"A modern day elf," said Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Victor Dorsey, 45, of Shiloh. "We just love the program. The day you grant a wish is just something amazing. It's memorable for the child and memorable for you. We've been blessed in travels and health and to be able to give back is something special. When you are blessed, it is a blessing you can share."
Dorsey and his wife, Brita Dorsey, 46, have been wish granters for more than 10 years. They started volunteering with the Make-A-Wish Foundation when Victor Dorsey was stationed in Hawaii but had to leave the program for two years when the military sent him to Cairo, Egypt. When they were ordered to Scott Air Force Base five years ago, the Dorsey family had not lived in the continental U.S. for 18 years, Dorsey said.
The couple, along with occasional help from their four children, have granted the wishes of seriously ill children by planning Disneyworld trips, room makeovers and shopping sprees.
Last October, the Dorseys granted a wish for a child with cancer.
"It was one of those wishes that just left a lump in your throat," Dorsey said. "When we were driving away we just couldn't imagine going through that as parents, we couldn't imagine how hard it would be."
Two weeks later they found out.
Their youngest child and only son, Dominic, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. Dominic is now 19.
"His diagnosis really gave us a perspective and an empathy we didn't have before," Dorsey said.
Dominic is doing a lot better and has undergone chemotherapy, Dorsey said.
"We enjoy enhancing the lives of kids," he said. "The smiles. Seeing their expression when you deliver that wish, that is what really makes it special."
In December, the Dorseys granted the wish of DeAndre Gilmore of Cahokia. He asked for a shopping spree and the Dorseys arranged for a limo to pick him up and take him to Walmart where he bought a TV, toys and games. Three weeks later, someone burglarized the house and stole everything DeAndre wished for. The Make-A-Wish Foundation only grants one wish, but Victor Dorsey couldn't stand by and know DeAndre's wish had been stolen. He started a collection drive and was able to collect toys and games that had been stolen from the ill child.
The couple is currently working on granting the wish of a 5-year-old boy. His wish is to go to Disneyworld. The child's nickname is "King Nate" and the Dorseys try to personalize a child's wish as much as they can.
"What we plan to do for him is like a King for a Day party for his send-off to Dinseyworld," Dorsey said.
A more recent wish granting involved a room makeover.
"We got to remodel a kid's room in a day, like one of those TV shows," he said. "We stripped it down, we painted it, we furnished it. It was a total remake in a day and it was a lot of fun."
Dorsey hopes he and his wife's love of volunteering and sharing with others is passed on to his children.
"My parents were like that," Dorsey said. "My dad had the biggest heart you'd ever want to see. Kids called him dad and there was nothing he wouldn't do for any one, any time and I model myself after him."
Anyone who has ever considered volunteering for the Make-A-Wish Foundation should give it a go, Dorsey said.
"It's a rewarding experience and not for you, that's the thing," he said. "It's not a reward for you, but you give back and if you really want to give back and make kids smile, then it's for you. The theory behind the Make-A-Wish program is to enhance kids' lives and if you want to enhance a child's life, go for it.
"It's all about giving back. All too often you take what you have for granted. If you can change a life, that's all it takes. It takes just one person to make a difference."
Contact reporter Jennifer A. Bowen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2667.