Spotlight: Stephanie Boydston
Degree: Human Relations and Therapeutic Recreation
Position: Development Coordinator at Make-A-Wish Southern Florida
Spending 10 years in the food and beverage industry prior to being in her current role, Stephanie didn’t always dream of working for Make-A-Wish.
Growing up in Long Island, New York, as soon as she could, Stephanie started working. From Chuck E. Cheese’s, Boomers, to Walt Disney World, and even managing a restaurant in the Hampton’s, she did it all. Going to college at St. Josephs in Patchogue, New York she had no idea what she wanted to do. During an advising session with her academic counselor, they put majors in a hat and chose Human Relations- and she never looked back.
She was introduced to the magic and power of the Make-A-Wish Foundation during her freshman year of college when she met her best friend, DJ. DJ suffers from Muscular Dystrophy- the deterioration of muscles in the body. He was granted a rush wish from the foundation when he was 11 years old- and the power of this wish gave him the hope, strength, and joy to persevere. Having something to look forward to, and focus on is so important for any child or family that is suffering from a critical illness. And although a child can only have ONE Wish from any wish-granting organization, when Stephanie moved in with DJ and his parents in college- each year the family planned a trip or a “wish” of their very own.
One day while still managing a restaurant, she had one of the many “What am I going to do with my life?” moments that we all have. Her friend sat down next to her and had simply mentioned in passing that when she thinks of her, she automatically thinks Make-A-Wish.
Following a boyfriend to South Florida, she made a major move. She packed her bags, filled her Hyundai Sonata, and went to Florida without a plan or anything lined up. When she arrived in Fort Lauderdale, she quickly realized that there was a local Make-A-Wish chapter only a few miles from her new home. She put in an application to be a wish-granter volunteer and then applied for the part-time unpaid internship- just to get her foot in the door starting February 2016.
Six weeks into her role as a Special Events Intern, the Senior Development Coordinator went on maternity leave. With no one to fill the role, they asked Stephanie to take over temporarily, since she was familiar with the database and knew some of the ropes. 3-4 days out of the week she would take over part-time on the development team. Her colleague came back from maternity leave early, and around the same time, she and her boyfriend had broken up. Distressed and without anything else after the internship, she decided to move back to New York in July of 2016.
Two days after she moved back, Make-A-Wish called and offered her a full-time position. Well, back down she went! As a Development Associate (prior to her recent promotion), Stephanie went all in. Anyone who knows her can attest to the fact that she is a true workaholic.
“I’ve always been an over-achiever. I always want to be busy, and so I filled my plate. At first, I wanted a little bit of overtime, but then I started seeing a need to educate the local partners about the Make-A-Wish mission. There needed to be more passion. I started planning store rallies and wish parties for our local partners. I introduced the partners to wish children and threw myself on the ground floor of corporations to educate the employees. Knowledge is power. I grew the National Partnership position and increased campaign donations by 27%.”
“What started as overtime for a little bit of extra cash turned into a dream position.”
Who are your role models? Do you have a mentor?
“DJ is my number one role model. He instilled all magic in me to last a lifetime. He and his family taught me everything I’ll ever need to know about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. He made me a list one day and said, ‘go live my life for me.’ Now everything I do, I do with him in mind and to make him proud. I promised to check everything off that list; I’ve been crossing things off for the last six years. He is my ultimate muse.”
“Wanda [VP of Mission Resources] is the most professional woman I’ve ever met. Coming from experience in banking, she has the brains, beauty, and knowledge to manage with compassion- which is difficult to find in the for-profit world nowadays.
She eats, sleeps, and breathes Make-A-Wish. She’s been my biggest advocate within these four walls. By taking a chance, believing and supporting me in all my roles, she’s been my backbone and mentor through it all.”
What is your advice to young professionals who are also trying to find their dream role?
“It was so important for my heart to smile and to be happy. If you’re not satisfied with a role, and it doesn’t bring you peace- then you’re in the wrong position. I don’t mean to sound corny, but you need to follow your heart. Doing something that you’re passionate about makes you feel good. It fills you in a way that nothing ever could.
Feeding my soul is of great importance. Everyone shy’s away from nonprofits as a career choice because it fills your hearts, but does not necessarily fill your pockets. But once you find what your heart beats for, and you find a company or organization that wants to pay you to do it – you’re going to be on top of the world! I come to a job every single day that could easily move me to happy tears multiple times a day, and it is probably the greatest gift I have ever given myself.”
“I’m just trying to save the world one wish, one puppy, and one baby at a time!”
Now that you’ve landed a dream position, what are ways you are improving yourself? Is there something else you’re looking to achieve now?
“It’s the 2nd year of being in my role here at Make-A-Wish Southern Florida, and I now have the experience and confidence in knowing exactly what to look and ask for. And I’m setting even higher campaign goals for myself; I just want to make every local partnership the best it could be.”
Along with being the Development Coordinator at Make-A-Wish and an active Wish-Granter volunteer, Stephanie is a foster mom to homeless animals at Good Karma Pet Rescue (A non profit animal rescue in South Florida), as well as an active member of the Junior League of Greater Fort Lauderdale (A non profit organization that focuses on community needs and bettering the world around us). You can say she is, in fact, the “Nonprofit Queen.” She also continues to cross experiences off of the list DJ gave her, and hopes to one day spend 6 months to one year in Africa working on animal sanctuaries, orphanages, and sustainability projects!
Every time I see Stephanie, she is more enthusiastic and excited about her job as the last time I saw her. Stephanie’s story is one of patience, struggle, hard work, and perseverance. It was my pleasure to spotlight her and to share her story to inspire and empower the community around us.
Thank you, Stephanie!