What brought you to Make-A-Wish Vermont?
Jim: I was a filmmaker in Los Angeles and my brother was on the Make-A-Wish Colorado Board of Directors. I was invited to their celebrity golf tournament as a guest for eight years and it was a great event. I really enjoyed it. Once we moved to Vermont, I served on our chapter’s Board for six years, then decided it would probably be more fun to grant wishes than look at budget numbers. So we became wish granters nine years ago! It’s a joy to be part of Make-A-Wish Vermont.
Nerissa: I had been a school counselor for elementary-aged students. I knew Make-A-Wish was an amazing organization and being a wish granter sounded like a lot of fun.
What has been your most magical moment?
Jim and Nerissa: I think we agree on the same wish. We had wish kid Marina, from Chester, a few years ago, and she had a condition that caused the deterioration of the myelin sheath. She started having complications around the age of four and she wasn’t verbal. Her parents were so incredibly loving though and their favorite thing to do was take her for walks in a backpack harness.
Marina’s wish ended up being a path through the woods on their property, complete with little bridges, where she’d be able to take her adaptive wheelchair.
The most amazing thing was how the entire town of Chester turned out to help create those paths and build bridges, and it all culminated on this gigantic one-day event. Everyone was hurrying around, finishing up details, and they were all dressed in “Marina’s Way” t-shirts. They all wanted to make sure everything was perfect when Marina came out to see her wish.
What do you do when you’re not fairy godparents?
Nerissa: I’m a school counselor at the high school level and it’s one of the most fun jobs in the world. I also a Board member and volunteer for Zack’s Place, which is a drop-in center for people with developmental disabilities in Woodstock. It’s another organization, like Make-A-Wish, that makes individuals see themselves as someone special and unique.
Jim: I also volunteer at Zack’s Place. I’ve helped direct musicals, read to Zack’s Place members, and assisted with fundraising. I also participate in their Turkey Trot each year. We both feel strongly connected to Vermont.
Jim and Nerissa: We also love to snowboard, Jim golfs (which Nerissa tolerates!), we love reading, hosting friends, and traveling.
What you do believe it is that makes wishes so special for kids and their families?
Jim: I think that it’s granting the family a respite in thinking of their lives as constantly treating, or living with a disease. It’s a time for them to enjoy time with one another and experience something other than the ongoing condition.
Nerissa: A lot of a family’s bonding experiences take place in the hospital. A wish allows them to have an incredible moment that has nothing to do with the hospital. Kids light up and see themselves as a special person, apart from their condition, in a positive and uplifting way.
What would you wish for?
Jim: I’d wish to be with Nerissa forever.
Nerissa: I’d wish for a trip that involves us with all four of our grown children.
What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?
Nerissa: I jumped off the edge of Victoria Falls once! I was attached to a cable and it swung you out over the canyon. That feeling was amazing!
Jim: I wasn’t that crazy but I did zipline over the Falls! We had moved to South Africa for six months so that I could direct and produce a TV series. It was a great experience.