Truly inspiring stories are everywhere; you just need to look for them.  But for Paul Rosario, a project manager in our Governance, Risk & Compliance group, sharing his inspirational life story with strangers on a fairly regular basis is a  way for him to give back to the organization that changed his life – the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

His story begins at age 11, when Rosario was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. During a hospital stay, he was visited by a volunteer with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He asked for a vacation for his family of five to Cancun, Mexico, and the wish was granted several months later after he finished chemotherapy and was healthy enough to travel, but for those months in between, Rosario said the promise of the trip was a light at the end of the tunnel.

“The illness consumes you, and after awhile you forget there is hope and it is hard to focus on anything positive,” said Rosario. “After meeting with Make-A-Wish I was filled with excitement, knowing that I had a trip to look forward to. That wish changed my outlook and gave me the hope I was missing.”

Rosario attributes his survival to the Winthrop University Hospital Cancer Center for Kids. It was there that he beat the cancer, and came back years later as a volunteer speaker at one of the hospital’s fundraising events. There he told his inspiring, yet difficult story.

“When you start describing your experiences, it brings you back,” said Rosario.  “Even when I was battling cancer, sharing that struggle was something I repressed and never spoke about. During that speech I was holding back tears, but I received an overwhelming response from the parents in the audience to keep doing what I was doing.”

It was this speech that triggered Rosario’s desire to give back to the foundation that gave him so much when he was young. When he contacted Make-A-Wish, they put him on a fast track to becoming a member of the Alumni Speakers Bureau and assigned him his first speech at the Wine & Wishes fundraiser in 2010 – the foundation’s largest event with an audience of more than 600 people – before ever hearing him speak. Since then Rosario has spoken at many events, but says that the pain that comes with speaking about his story still remains.

“Talking about it will never be easy, but repetition makes it easier. It will always hurt to relive that experience, but the message is so powerful that the impact outweighs any of the feelings. Knowing that sharing my story will create awareness of the power of a wish and ultimately bring in donations to keep granting more wishes makes it worth it.”

Check out the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s website to learn more.