Burger helps make wishes come true

December 22, 2009|By JANET HEIM

WILLIAMSPORT -- Jenn Burger's life revolves around children, even though she doesn't have any of her own.

Burger works with 125 children daily as a preschool teacher at Rehoboth Learning Center in Williamsport. After hours, in addition to studying at Hagerstown Community College to earn certification as a nursing assistant, Burger volunteers with the Make-a-Wish Foundation and works with about six medically eligible local children as a wish granter.

"Our volunteers in Western Maryland play a crucial part of the wish-granting process at the Foundation," said Judy Mann, Western Maryland field office manager of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Mid-Atlantic. "Our mission is to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy. Through the hard work and dedication of these volunteers, we hope to reach our goal of serving every medically eligible child in Allegany, Garrett, Washington and Frederick counties."


Burger, a 1996 Clear Spring High School and 2000 Bridgewater College graduate, got involved with Make-a-Wish after seeing a request for volunteers in the newspaper in 2001. After a daylong training session in Kensington, Md., and a background check, Burger was ready to go.

She said wish granters get to choose with whom they work, and she generally selects children in the Washington County area. Burger, 31, usually partners with volunteer Dawn Watson, who lives in the Bethesda/Chevy Chase, Md., area.

Some of the responsibilities of wish granters include meeting with the family, completing the necessary paperwork and making sure the requested wish is medically feasible for the child. Make-a-Wish works with those ages 2 to 18.

"It's just to give families time away from this, to relax, something that doesn't involve being sick. They're juggling home life, back and forth between the hospital. We step in and send them on an amazing adventure," said Burger, who noted that the families pay nothing for the trip.

Burger has helped send two families to Hawaii, one to a California racetrack and several to Walt Disney World in Florida, among others. This summer, a local family went to Montana for a weeklong fossil dig.

"For a lot of these families, it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Burger said.

The hardest part for Burger is learning that one of the children to whom she granted a wish has died. When that happens, she takes comfort in knowing she helped them create a wonderful memory.

Burger and her husband of five years, Joseph, live near Downsville.

Make-a-Wish has a newly opened Western Maryland Field Office in the Sylvania Building at 13424 Pennsylvania Ave. in Hagerstown.

More information on Make-a-Wish can be found at or by calling Mann at 301-797-9474.

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