Jeff exemplifies all of the qualities that we look for in a volunteer – a passion for the mission of Make-A-Wish, a commitment to excellence, always putting wish children first, a strong sense of community, and an innate ability to inspire and lead others into action for the children we serve.
Jeff’s passion for the mission of Make-A-Wish began in 1980, after hearing about a young Phoenix boy named Chris Greicius. It was through that heartwarming story that Jeff found an inspiration that would ultimately lead to the creation of Make-A-Wish Missouri. In a recent interview, Jeff spoke about that moment and his own personal experience with a child fighting overwhelming odds:
“The mission of Make-A-Wish is very near and dear to my heart. My wife Christine and I were inspired by two young boys. First, we were inspired by our own son who was born prematurely. We were worried and afraid of losing him, but I am grateful to say that he is now a healthy, young adult. However, during that difficult time, we met many families who were not as lucky. Second, we were inspired by the story of a 7-year-old boy named Chris Greicius. Seeing the way that Chris’ wish not only impacted him, but also brought joy and happiness to those who were part of it, inspired us to share the power of a wish with the St. Louis community.” – Jeff Comotto
After seeing the impact of Chris’ wish, Jeff and his wife Chris decided to bring joy to local St. Louis children who needed it most. After a few short years of planning, the Metro St. Louis chapter was founded in 1986. It all began with a handful of dedicated volunteers with one vision in mind: bring the powerful mission of Make-A-Wish to local children in the St. Louis area. It was through Jeff’s vision and leadership that 37 wishes were granted that first year. From that moment on, the children in his territory gained a tremendous ally in their fight to overcome their illnesses.
Jeff’s passion extended far past his day-to-day duties in being a co-founder of the chapter. His passion drove him to become a volunteer wish granter as well. Jeff assisted in granting each wish that was granted that first year and went on to be an active volunteer wish granter for over 25 years.
“Jeff’s passion for the children we serve is evident in each wish that he has helped grant. He consistently goes above and beyond for our children and develops personal friendships with each child and their family. He is a true inspiration to all of us here at the chapter office.” – LuAnn Bott, President & CEO, Make-A-Wish Missouri
After years of witnessing what Jeff had accomplished in the St. Louis market, it was decided that the other two regional chapters in Missouri would merge with the St. Louis chapter to become the Missouri chapter. We are proud to announce, that since that time, over 6,300 wishes have been granted to children throughout our chapter. This would not have been possible without Jeff’s leadership and dedication.
“Not only did Jeff and his wife Chris found the Metro St. Louis chapter, but he was extremely instrumental in corporate engagement within the St. Louis market. It was through his leadership that the St. Louis market grew significantly enough that it was decided to merge the Southwest Missouri and Kansas City markets to form the Missouri chapter that it is today.” – LuAnn Bott, President & CEO, Make-A-Wish Missouri
Even after the merger, Jeff’s dedication and desire to grant the wish of every eligible child did not stop. Jeff became even more involved as he went on to create and chair the Make-A-Wish Missouri Board of Alumni, as well as becoming a member of the corporate development board for the chapter, and recently co-chaired the 2017 St. Louis Walk For Wishes.
Jeff’s latest display of dedication came to life after he and his wife attended a small board alumni dinner in 2015. It was during that dinner where he expressed interest in helping to engage other board alumni, many of which he was still in regular contact with. This led to him and his wife forming a board alumni walk team for the 2016 St. Louis Walk For Wishes. Not only did Jeff and his wife raise enough money to fund a wish, they also had a tent at the event, in which they displayed some of their Make-A-Wish memorabilia.
Memorabilia such as t-shirts with the original wishbone logo, photos from the wishes that were granted in the 1980’s, and even the pins that employees and board members used to trade at national conference. Jeff and his wife spent the day telling impactful wish stories to interested donors and corporate partners, as well as spending quality time interacting with wish kids of all ages. Anyone who walked past their tent that day could feel that this was just the beginning of Jeff’s involvement with the Walk For Wishes.
Having not attended a walk in several years, he remembered it as a small group of wish families and volunteers, raising just over $7,000 by walking inside one of the local malls in St. Louis. Seeing almost 4,000 attendees at Forest Park celebrating their fundraising achievement of $790,000, was a wonderful site. Jeff was reinvigorated and immediately inquired how he could help grow the St. Louis Walk For Wishes to become the first ever, million dollar Walk For Wishes in the country.
Jeff met with the Make-A-Wish Missouri staff a few weeks later and began helping to reconnect them to other board alums and local business and corporate contacts. Later that year, he agreed to be a co-chair of the 2017 Walk For Wishes in St. Louis. In the first executive leadership committee meeting, he ignited their passion by recounting where the walk and the Missouri chapter had come from, to what it is today, and the potential that exists to fulfill the vision of granting a wish to every eligible child.
Throughout the campaign, his passion and dedication was felt in every meeting he led, each donor event he spoke at, and in every corporate engagement he participated in. As a result of this passion and dedication, he helped ensure that St. Louis remained the #1 Walk For Wishes in the country, and most importantly, that more than 100 local wishes were granted from its efforts.
“It was incredibly meaningful to see the pride and emotion in Jeff as he looked around and saw his and his wife’s legacy unfolding before his eyes. Thousands of lives have been changed because of their passion and dedication… Jeff and his wife, Chris, having faced the possibility of losing their child, selflessly looked for other families they could help. Their infectious passion for wish kids and the mission of Make-A-Wish inspired me to volunteer as a wish granter on more wishes last year than my previous three years combined!”– Kristina Linden, Director of Development, Make-A-Wish Missouri
It is our honor to officially nominate Mr. Jeff Comotto for the 2017 Suzie Allen Volunteer of the Year Award. This nomination is not only for his participation this past year, but also for the past 31 years of unparalleled volunteer service and leadership. Jeff embodies the true spirit of volunteerism and has remained a tremendous inspiration for fellow volunteers, board members, wish families, staff, and especially to the children we serve.