On a grey afternoon in the plush offices of a private bank in a sleek skyscraper above the waterfront in downtown Seattle, a group of well-dressed business people gathered. They were there to discuss what you would perhaps expect; money and how to get more of it. But instead of profits, the group was looking for ways to ease the stress of a life-threatening illness on a child and their family .
It was a meeting of the board of the Washington and Alaska chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Before the meeting began, the talk was of an 8-year-old boy from the Midwest who was in Seattle as part of Make-A-Wish. He had a simple wish. The local chapter had arranged to help him get his wish, which was to visit his best friend, who lives in Seattle.
That wish was to be granted — but not in just a simple way. The boy, his family and his Seattle friend were also to be whisked off from their luxury hotel by limousine to the premier of Disney’s “How to Train Your Dragon” performance at the Tacoma Dome. There was to be an exclusive pre-performance tour back stage to meet the actors and the dragons.
Islander Brian Mock was installed to be the new director of the group. Newly appointed to the board as a trustee is Jeff Dunn. They join volunteers from the community along with business people representing bankers, airlines, Costco, doctors, hotels and software firms.
The men, both fathers, are inspired and enthused about their positions. Why, who would not want to help out kids and families to have fun, feel normal again after months of doctors appointments and treatments for life-threatening illnesses? They know the small things that are important to children, such as getting their ages precise.
Brian Mock was raised on Mercer Island. He and his wife, Julie, have three children; Chris is 7 1/2, Anna is 5 and Brady is 3 1/2. He is the managing director for direct investments at Russell Investments. He attended Lakeridge Elementary and IMS, and graduated from Mercer Island High School in 1989 and later from the University of Washington.
Jeff Dunn is a relative newcomer to the Island, having lived here just three years. He and his wife, Dawn, have two young children who are 5 and 2 1/2. He hails from Virginia, and is an associate director in the private equity investment group of Vulcan Inc., the family investment office for Islander Paul Allen.
Both men say simply that they live on the Island because of what it offers for their children and family life.
Each said that joining the Make-A-Wish leadership was easy.
“For me and for Russell, this was an opportunity to give back, do something local and make a difference,” Mock said. “It helps keep me grounded.”
Dunn explained that he had a close friend whose 6-year-old son was very ill. Dunn was impressed by what the family went through.
There was so much stress on the family, he remembered.
“Each of us can put ourselves in the shoes of those who have a very sick child,” he said. “And we want to help somehow.”
By its nature, Make-A-Wish is also in the business of building community.
Mock told the story of one child who wished to be on the Northwestern, the crab-tendering fishing vessel on the television show “Deadliest Catch” boat with Captain Sig Hansen. Not only was it a memorable adventure for the child, but now the crew and others involved in the popular television show have become part of the Make-A-Wish family — helping raise funds and awareness.
When asked what they would wish for, each man paused — but just for a second before answering. For Mock it would be to be on stage with U2 or the band Coldplay, with a microphone or guitar in hand. For Dunn, perhaps working out and catching a few passes from football hero, Joe Montana.
For more, go to www.northwestwishes.org.