Travel Heroes / Travel Heroes Journal

Making wishes come true

Michelle Krueger tells us what it's like to be a real-life fairy godmother

By Casey ONeill

With two active kids and a job to boot - most people would think that Michelle Krueger is too busy to worry about other people.  They could not be more wrong! Michelle spends her spare time helping fulfil the wishes of sick Australian kids and teens. For this dedicated Make-a-Wish volunteer even holiday time is an opportunity to support the charity.

For would-be Travel Heroes with a case of “no time”, “I’m too-busy” or “I’m too tired” Michelle is the perfect antidote.  We caught up with this charity supporting superstar to talk about what volunteering and fundraising mean to her. 

What is your most memorable Make-a-Wish moment?

There are so many to mention, but I would have to say it was probably the very first Wish presentation that I helped to deliver.  The energy of the Wish Force was truly amazing in putting together the wish, and the generosity of the community was inspiring.  To witness the reaction of the Wish Child and their family and see the power that a granted wish can deliver to a child with a life-threatening illness is something that I will always remember.

What inspired you to volunteer for Make-a-wish?

I have always been motivated to volunteer for charities, and this has been reinforced through opportunities via my employer NAB where we are allocated 2 full days per year to support the community. Whilst chatting with a friend on Facebook, I noticed that one of the members in the conversation had the Make-A-Wish logo as their profile photo. I asked her if she was connected to the charity and were they looking for volunteers. The response was YES! I had no previous connection to the charity, but as a mum of two healthy girls, there was definitely motivation to help out where I could. I submitted my application to [Make-A-Wish’s] Melbourne office and the rest is history.

Recently you completed a Fundraising Trek for Make-a-Wish, can you tell us a bit about it? 

It was a 10 day trip to Beijing, China in early September. Our group consisted of three current volunteers and five members of the general public who had an interest in supporting the charity.

The trip commenced with a couple of days visiting famous tourist attracts around Beijing such as the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven and Tiananmen Square. Following this marvellous introduction to China, it was time to take on the challenge of the Great Wall itself. For 5 days our group hiked various sections of the Great Wall, in remote areas, where at times we were the only people around. 

At times the terrain was quite physically challenging but everyone in the group were supportive of each other so even when your muscles were screaming for a rest, you still managed to keep going. It was also emotionally challenging at times, especially on occasions when we stopped to reflect on where we were and what we were doing. Everyone shed a tear or two during our hike!

What was the best part of your adventure?

Meeting some amazing people and being inspired by their individual backgrounds and motivations for undertaking this challenge. I have truly made some life-long friends during this adventure. This was also my very first trip overseas, so it was a perfect opportunity to see the world and support a worthy cause at the same time.

Any funny stories to share?

As this was my first trip overseas it was interesting to witness another culture and be the tourist for a change. Some of my funniest memories where when we were trying to interact with the locals when ordering food or purchasing something at the markets. It was amazing how quickly our skills in charades were introduced to try and get our message across, and I’m sure it looked funny to others. Bartering was also a lot of fun. Trying to get the best price and remembering the conversion rate for AUS dollars was a skill that we mastered pretty quickly, resulting in wonderful souvenirs for family, friends and ourselves.

What were the most interesting things you learned?

I really learnt a lot about myself not only during the trip, but also in the planning for it. I am really proud of what I have achieved. I have proven to myself that I can step well outside of my comfort zone and experience new things, no matter what stage of life I am in. I have gained greater experience in coordinating fundraising activities, and learnt more about the work that Make-A-Wish does to support its volunteer network. 

The most important lesson from this trip has been the positive example that I have provided to my own family, especially my children, with my eldest daughter counting down the days until she can become a volunteer for Make-A-Wish herself.

Make-a-Wish is a worldwide organisation with branches across Australia. You can find out more about volunteering and fundraising opportunities via their website. If you are keen to follow in Michelle’s footsteps, check out our 5 Essential Rules from Travel Heroes Mentors for advice and inspiration.

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