Whirlpool presented a check for $41,000 to the East Tennessee branch of the Make-A-Wish Foundation on Wednesday, to help the program continue to fund life-changing experiences for those with …
Whirlpool presented a check for $41,000 to the East Tennessee branch of the Make-A-Wish Foundation on Wednesday, to help the program continue to fund life-changing experiences for those with life-threatening illnesses.
James Brown, cost and quality engineer at Whirlpool and board member at the Scott Hicks Memorial explained that fundraising for the event begins in January each year, with an auction taking place in June followed by a golf tournament.
“We’ve raised almost $800,000 over 22 years, and we are so excited about it,” Brown said.
Whirlpool employees call and collect donations for the foundation while Make-A-Wish is responsible for the auction itself.
Whirlpool Operations Manager Lindsey Croy said some auction items are basket packages which can include everything from a weekend stay in Gatlinburg to pampering packages for both women and men.
“We set up the silent auction, but we also have large appliances that we set up for live auction. It’s a really big hit,” Croy said. “It’s also open to the public; we just ask that anyone who attends the auction to make a donation of at least $10.”
The fundraising was a longstanding tradition with Maytag, so when Whirlpool acquired Maytag, the tradition continued.
Brown praised the large donations Whirlpool makes to Make-A-Wish each year, and stressed how much good the donations help accomplish.
Make-A-Wish often brings several of its recipients to the auction to meet everyone and speak about the impact the organization has had in their lives.
“Throughout the year, we’ll get messages from recipients who’ve had their wish granted and want to thank us,” Croy added. “We’ll then show those messages to our employees to show them exactly what their work and donations have helped us do.”
According to Whirlpool, there are numerous children in Bradley County with wishes, and the auction and fundraising are a great way to supply them. Employees also discovered numerous workers in the Whirlpool call center who had once had a wish granted, which Croy said really brings the work full circle.
Whirlpool engagement coordinator Carmen Cranfill said the fundraising is also an awareness campaign, as Whirlpool staff getting donations for Make-A-Wish brings the issue to the forefront of everyone’s minds and informs the community of this lesser known need.
The campaign brings various departments of Whirlpool together as well, as plant workers and call center staff all come together to help.
“We want people to know we aren’t just an appliance manufacturer or a customer experience center, but we also want to be involved in our community. We employ a lot of people here, so it’s important for us to play our part,” Cranfill said.
Stephanie Wilkins, Make-A-Wish interim CEO, said the Scott Hicks Memorial golf tournament has become one of their organization’s favorite fundraisers. She described the amount of money raised as “incredible.”
“We get to take what they do and give it to our wish kids,” Wilkins said. “When going through a critical illness, families can be very stressed and feel like their lives have turned upside down. They’re having to learn to live with a medical condition, or go through the treatment depending on what the condition is. Each wish is different, and we strive to provide each of them with their greatest desire.”
At Make-A-Wish, wishes can be anything from a trip to DisneyWorld to meeting a celebrity. Some children may even want to design their own trading card for the card game of their choice. The list goes on, but due to Make A Wish’s extensive network of contacts, wishes are never impossible.
The East Tennessee Branch of Make-A-Wish is part of Make-A-Wish America, which was started by a young boy named Chris who had a wish to be a police officer. After fulfilling Chris’s wish, chapters started popping up all around the country. There are now 62 chapters spread throughout the United States. Local chapters are tasked to raise the funds and help children in their area.
“The locals have raised these funds, and the funds help provide for kids in this area specifically,” Wilkins added.
Now that the check has been presented, staff will begin working on plans for 2019’s drive.
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