Kristina Rhodes is a dedicated volunteer and visionary for Make-A-Wish, an organization that grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions, working to enrich their lives with hope, strength, and joy. A trailblazer in her region, Rhodes is credited with spearheading the Make-A-Wish mission in an area of the country where it wasn’t well known, helping to make wishes come true for 80 children.
Rhodes applied for the Good Neighbor Awards twice and was selected in 2013 as one of five national winners. She also received the honor of being selected by readers as the 2013 favorite for the Web Choice Award. Winning the Good Neighbor Award meant a $10,000 grant for Make-A-Wish, and Rhodes’ story was featured by both national and local news media. Her work was also recognized before a crowd of 6,000 people at NAR’s 2013 REALTORS® Conference & Expo.
Like many potential nominees, Rhodes was reluctant to apply for the Good Neighbor Award at first. But here she talks about why the effort was well worth it.
How did the publicity generated from the Good Neighbor Award help you?
The extensive media coverage that came as a result of winning the Good Neighbor Award would never have been possible for us to do on our own. This national attention puts a spotlight on our mission. It inspires other people to get involved with Make-A-Wish here in my community and in other areas of the country.
How did the grant money help you?
The $10,000 grant gave us so many more opportunities to further our mission. You have heard that timing is everything? Well, when I received the check from NAR, it was during the radio Request-A-Thon, one of our major fund-raising events. So, I called in to the event to make my donation on a very public platform. It just so happens that a local company was matching donations during that hour and I was able to almost double our money. It was amazing!
Our goal is always to grant more wishes to these incredible children battling life-threatening illnesses. The majority of the Good Neighbor Award funds will go directly to wish granting. In addition, some funds will go to furthering our medical outreach program, which is currently very limited. Even though Make-A-Wish is a well-known national organization, there are still a lot of misconceptions when it comes to exactly what we do and who qualifies for the life-changing experience of a granted wish. We are creating a program that will educate local medical professionals on who we are and what we do, so we can change more lives.
NAR produced a video about your accomplishments with Make-A-Wish. Have you been able to leverage these promotional materials in other ways?
The world-class marketing materials included as a part of the award have been phenomenal. The article in REALTOR® Magazine and the video are proving to be invaluable. These items have clearly separated us in an extremely competitive fund-raising environment. It also gives me more confidence and credibility when I ask potential donors for critical funding. It speaks volumes for both Make-A-Wish and the entire real estate community when I say, “NAR supports our local efforts.”
Did winning the award change your role as a Make-A-Wish volunteer?
What I do for Make-A-Wish is not really volunteering. After 14 years, it’s more of an extension of who I am. I don’t do it for the recognition, and quite honestly I was a little uncomfortable with the attention at first. But winning has given me the opportunity to collaborate with key partners, share our mission, and attract donors looking for a wise investment.
How was your experience overall?
To be nominated for this award is an honor, but to actually win the award is surreal. The entire experience from the first phone call until now, months after the award, has been amazing. The professionals from NAR and REALTOR® Magazine were incredible. And the experience at NAR Conference & Expo was unbelievable—receiving a standing ovation from 6,000 people, being on the same stage as Hillary Clinton, seeing my video on a Jumbotron screen. Everyone was focused on me, my charity, and what they could do to help further our mission.
"The Good Neighbor Award was so much more than I ever imagined. It will be making an impact on me and Make-A-Wish for years to come."
Another benefit of this experience is being part of the Good Neighbor Society, which is a group of all the past winners of the Good Neighbor Award. It’s overwhelming to be included in the company of these other REALTORS®, who are working so hard to make an impact on communities worldwide. I now have a lifelong network of amazing individuals doing great works in their communities as a resource to help grow Make-A-Wish by sharing ideas and best practices from around the country. The Good Neighbor Award was so much more than I ever imagined. It will be making an impact on me and Make-A-Wish for years to come. It has broadened my horizons and inspires and challenges me to do more.
How has winning the Good Neighbor Award changed what you are doing this year?
Our 2014 goals have dramatically changed as a result of being recognized by the Good Neighbor Awards. I continue to get requests from people asking how they can help. They want to know more about Make-A-Wish. They are inspired by our mission. This exposure is opening doors I thought would take months and years. I know our network of volunteers and benefactors will grow exponentially in the coming months. Instead of being limited to barely making our fund-raising goals and just getting by, we can now expand our focus to what we thought would be our two- to four-year goals. It is impossible to predict the ultimate impact of winning the Good Neighbor Award. But, I can tell you I can’t wait to find out!