Jillaina Wachendorf, newly appointed CEO of non-profit Wish of a Lifetime has already packed a lifetime of experiences into her 53 years. A successful career in the cable industry allowed her to comfortably “retire” at the ripe age of forty-three. Yet when she was approached in January, 2014 by Wish of a Lifetime, she realized she still had more to do, more to give. “I want to do something meaningful; I want to give to people. I want to pay forward all that’s been given to me…and it came knocking.”

Share with our readers the mission of Wish of a Lifetime?

Wish of a Lifetime (WOL) creates opportunities for Seniors to do something they’ve always wanted to do. We’re a non-profit based in Denver and our core program is the “Wish of a Lifetime Program”. To date we’ve granted over 900 wishes in every state in the US!

What inspired you to accept the position of CEO?

When WOL first approached me, I didn’t think I was cut out for non-profits. My last position before leaving to be a stay-at-home-mom was Executive Vice-President of Sales and Marketing for Cable Company Starz Encore. My experience was in corporate America.

Two years ago, I reentered the workforce as an entrepreneur and started Hit the Mark, a business coaching practice. I coached and advised business owners on growth and success strategies. I finally decided to set up my LinkedIn profile…and shortly after that WOL contacted me about the CEO position.

They were convinced I was just the right kind of person for the job. I have always had a deep respect for our “elders” and the more I learned about the organization the more in love I feel with the mission.

So it ends up being a combination of wanting to do something that is meaningful and the mission of shifting the way our culture sees the aging members of our society that inspired me to take the job. I feel like this is my calling.

How does Wish of a Lifetime view aging?

Our belief is that growing older doesn’t mean you have to stop dreaming and living a life of purpose. We have seen the profound impact on the lives of seniors when their lifelong dream or wish is granted.

And that’s why I believe WOL is poised to make a difference in the senior space by building awareness. Many people in our society are just unaware of the problems seniors face – they are isolated, lonely and often left behind.

I know that a combination of our stories and other outreach efforts will make a difference. It might sound audacious, but I believe we can shift the culture of this country.

How do you view aging?

I think it’s the seasons of our lives…every season has different growth and different opportunity. And each season has a place and should be honored.

Most of my staff are under 30 and they are passionate about our mission. They really get the idea of the value of that older mentor in their life – grandparent, aunt, uncle, boss, and teacher. They are more open to the value of elders than even our middle generation – not because we don’t want to be but our lives are busy. We are in the “producing season” of our lives; taking care of kids, houses, jobs…all the responsibilities.

And I am committed thru WOL to shift the way the nation views and values aging.

What motivates you?

People…probably not a surprise! People of all ages. I love the Maya Angelo quote “We’re all more alike than different”.

We’re all connected and that is so interesting to me. When you understand that you absolutely have to be inspired every day by people you pass on the street, people in your life, people you read about.

Who recently inspired you?

One of our wish recipients…her name is Mary. She is 91 years old and always had a passion and love for flying. But she grew up in the days when a woman could only be a nurse, teacher or secretary. And that was really as a back stop in case husbands died or lost their jobs.

Because of women like Mary, I’ve been able to lead a different life and have an abundance of opportunity. I’m thrilled to tell you that Mary just recently received her pilot’s license. And you can read the full story of her wish fulfillment here.

Mary

What’s the biggest accomplishment in your career?

I’ve been fortunate to have amazing people in my life who have been willing to give me a chance. I’m a hard worker and have built my career by being open to opportunity and then doing my best.

My biggest accomplishment isn’t a single event, but what’s between the lines…it’s the way I view opportunities.
I’m a driver, I look for opportunity and that has opened up windows for me. I believe in abundance, win-win and integrity.

Every day you do your best with what you’ve got, with what’s right in front of you. When you do that with positive intentions the next opportunity shows up – whether in career, partnerships, personal life – that is what has been integral in my life…and accomplishments.

What’s the biggest difference between working in corporate American and Non-Profits?

I recently had an awakening moment about this very thing! I have all these meetings and do presentations in a business setting…but the meetings end with hugs. That never happened in business. Instead of the hand shake…hugs come.

This year on Valentine’s Day WOL did a pilot program and delivered 1400 roses to seniors. I personally hugged over 350 seniors that day. Whether it’s a business presentation or delivering a rose, when we are sharing stories it’s an automatic connection of the heart that calls for a hug.

What book is on your night stand?

The Book of Not Knowing by Peter Ralston. It’s all about how we naturally want to be in control and not in the space of “not knowing”. But nothing new is possible in the space of knowing because you’re setting boundaries. When you shift to not-knowing you allow yourself to experience possibility in order to create something new.

What’s on the horizon for you?

I’m blessed to do work that I love and have a wonderful husband and two amazing kids. I’m passionate about increasing awareness and advocating for the elderly through our WOL mission. I believe our society is ready to take a new look at aging and embrace our eldest citizens. People Magazine ran an article about (name of wish recipients) and it received 100,000 likes and 25,000 shares on their Facebook page. If that can happen with a pop culture magazine, I know we will be able to shift the way our nation views and values aging.
To learn more about Wish of a Lifetime, visit their website.