As she sips her iced tea at Starbucks and pulls her blonde hair behind her ears, she continues to think about her upcoming speech as the chairperson of the Gala Night for the Make-A-Wish foundation. Truth be told, she has been thinking of what to say for some weeks now. Before she finishes her cup, she realizes she needs to go back to the beginning of everything.
Julie Moore, a 50-year-old woman born in Virginia, has always known she wanted to make a difference in people’s lives and for the last 18 years being volunteer and member of the board at Make-A-Wish has also helped her through the most difficult things she has come across in life.
“When I was 17 my dad died,” Moore said. “The insecurity that I felt when he died and my world got turned upside-down shaped who I am, and it also gave me more compassion toward other people’s stories.”
Moore described that her dad’s death as the reason why she feels so driven in every aspect of her life, but watching her mom struggle with money and trying to take care of her family by herself made Moore want to study for a career with financial security.
“I had always wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember, but when I saw my mom significantly struggle, I realized I didn’t want to be in that position and that I would have to get smarter,” she said.
Moore decided to change her career path and went to study business to James Madison University in Virginia where she graduated in 1988, moved to Texas swhen she was offered a job at Verizon as an account support consultant. By 15 years she had worked her way to the post of area vice president in Dallas.
Make-A-Wish grants wishes to children with severe medical conditions to bring hope to the kids and their families. For the last 20 years, the organization has hosted the Wish Night Gala, which helps raise funds for more wishes to come true, said development officer and Wish Night coordinator Nicole Williams, 25, who has worked closely with Moore for the past four months.
“Working with Julie has been fantastic. She has a strong vision toward this year’s gala and she is a wonderful people person,” Williams said. “It’s really amazing to watch her rally people to get to a common goal of granting more wishes to these kids.”
In 2001, Moore married Kirk Moore, who is also a chairman for the Gala Night this year. The reason why they both got involved with nonprofits in the first place was because of Julie Moore’s epiphany on a regular day of work. She was sitting on a plane for a work trip for Verizon when she realized that she was only living for her job and money without a real purpose.
“I felt really empty. I didn’t want to be that person that all they think about is their job and paying the bills,” she said. “I remember saying to my husband, ‘There is more in life, there is more we can do’ So we started going to the Wish Gala every year.”
Moore and his husband are currently wish granters, which means they meet with the families and act as the liaison between the kid and the organization. This experience helped them when their daughter, Lexy, who is now 13-years-old, was born with a recessive gene that ultimately took 80 percent of her hearing ability.
Moore’s blue eyes got teary when she shared a story about the day they got the diagnosis for her daughter’s hearing loss. Moore and her husband were driving Lexy home after getting the news of her condition, when suddenly Lexy got car sick and started vomiting.
“We pulled over and as I’m cleaning her up and my husband looks at me and says ‘Make-A-Wish has prepared us in some way for this. We’ve seen people go through harder things and we can do this. We are going to define it, we’re not gonna let it define us,’” she said.
Kirk Moore, chairperson for this year’s Wish Gala as well, is very passionate for his wife determination in everything she does. He described her as intelligent, committed and a great leader which made her perfect work with nonprofits.
“One of the turning points for us was going to Wish nights, because when you go to these events you start embracing the mission, understanding what Make-A-Wish does and how important it is to the families,” he said. “It’s humbling at some level and really inspiring to see the difference that a wish can make to one of these kids.”
One of the most touching experiences Moore has had was when she went to the Night Gala for the first time and she and her husband were looking at the silent auction the event plans every year. That year, Make-A-Wish was auctioning art work made by the kids they were sponsoring that year, so people would put stickers down on sheets to state what they would pay for the art pieces.
“I looked at one of the sculptures and saw it did not have any stickers yet and it broke my heart, so I just grab all of my sticker and started putting them down on every painting or sculpture that did not have one,” she said. “The emotional part of the story is that, my husband noticed a man standing on the sidelines of one of the paintings waiting for a sticker to go down because he was that kid’s father and he wanted someone to buy his son’s painting.”
Moore said that after that Gala Night and the experiences that followed, it lead her to be more involved in this organization and, ultimately, becoming this year’s event organizer.
“With Make-A-Wish I feel like I have a purpose. You know when you are truly making a difference because Make-A-Wish is not going to take something that is terminal and change it but you never know the impact of hope on a kid ,” she said.