Kalin O’Connor’s numbers can make wishes come true for sick kids

Kalin O’Connor says she’s mostly a “numbers cruncher” for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, but her bottom line can help make a difference for sick children and their families.

Kalin O’Connor

O’Connor, a 2012 graduate of Homewood-Flossmoor High School, is working at the not-for-profit organization through the 2015 Summer Fellowship Program sponsored by The Columbus Foundation, a program that gives work experiences to young leaders interested in nonprofit sector careers.

The daughter of Marc O’Connor and Heather Poppe of Homewood is focusing on non-profit management as she works toward a bachelor’s degree in public affairs from The Ohio State University. She will graduate in spring 2016.

“I realized a long time ago that my passion in life is serving people and recently concluded that the best way to do that was through non-profit work,” she said.

She met a representative of the Make-Wish Foundation Central Ohio branch during a career fair in 2014, and thought it would be a perfect fit for an internship, but “the only job I've ever had was being a line cook at various restaurants so I don't think I let myself feel much until I learned that I had landed an interview,” she said. “I didn't think they would want someone with so little experience at such a prestigious organization.”

After landing a spot, O’Connor spent her summer 2014 break in Columbus, Ohio, working at the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Development Office. She came away “so incredibly moved by the impact this organization has on children, their families and their community.”

This summer O’Connor is one of 13 college students selected for the 10-week The Columbus Foundation Fellowship program. She was pleased to see Make-A-Wish on the list of 13 organizations looking for assistance. 

“The (Make-A-Wish) project interested me the most because it was a cost analysis and because of my excellent previous experience with the organization. My favorite aspect of my degree is the policy analysis portion, as I love research and solving problems, so I jumped at the chance to do a cost analysis. I learned so much last year and knew I would learn even more in my new position,” she said. 

The Make-A-Wish Foundation arranges experiences, made as wishes, for children ages 3 to 17 with life-threatening medical conditions. The not-for-profit has 61 chapters in the United States.

“Idealistically, the wishes we grant are priceless. Realistically, we're a non-profit organization and getting the resources to fulfill our mission and goals is often complicated and resource consuming itself,” O’Connor said. “We need to analyze our costs in order to better budget by projecting future costs, know how much we need to raise, and see where we could keep costs low, which all helps us to grant even more wishes.

“Our chapter goal is to grant a wish to every eligible child in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. Helping to save Make-A-Wish even a small amount is beneficial,” she noted. “Saving $1,400 by flying a few families out on a Wednesday instead of a Friday means having the money to fly an additional family of four to Disney World, so their little girl can be a princess for a week and be rejuvenated with the strength to finish her next round of chemo.” 

O’Connor’s work is the first in-depth cost analysis undertaken by a Make-A-Wish chapter.  

“I'm hoping to come up with how we should standardize cost analysis going forward, which could save time and help with projecting costs accurately,” she added.

Contact Marilyn Thomas at [email protected]

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