Interview by Sarah Shumick
Retired from a career teaching special education, Pam Spring has found her way back to working with children and building positive relationships with those around her as the Event/Volunteer Coordinator with A Special Wish, Foundation, Inc. Spring’s “passion is compassion,” which undoubtedly serves the wish families with ASW quite well. When she’s not working or volunteering for non profits in the area, Pam likes to spend time with her partner of 28 years at their home in Buckeye Lake.
Are you originally from Columbus? I was born in Columbus, but grew up in Dresden, OH, a little over an hour east of Columbus. I loved visiting Columbus as a child, to go shopping or to the theater. I attended graduate school at THE Ohio State University, became a Buckeye, and that was the end of the story! Other than a couple of years in Shelby, OH, right out of graduate school, I have lived in Columbus my entire adult life.
Give us a snapshot of your career path: Both my undergraduate and graduate degrees are in education. My first teaching job was in Monroeville, OH, where I taught special education to students grades 7-12. I left teaching for a couple of years and worked as an administrative assistant and assistant vice-president at Dollar Savings Bank in Columbus. I so missed my interactions with children, and decided to go back to teaching. I took a special education teaching position with Worthington Schools in 1985, where I retired in 2013. I had been a long-time volunteer for A Special Wish Foundation, and when the Event/Volunteer Coordinator position opened up, I slipped right into it! I believe that a great deal of happiness in any job is due to the relationships that you develop. That is what my position is all about, and I enjoy every minute of what I do at ASW!
Tell us about your current career role: Since we lost our Director of Operations last August, after a six plus year battle with Stage 4 liver cancer, my role right now includes things I never thought I’d be doing. But normally, it involves building relationships with people and groups, like CYP, to promote ASW, working with sponsors to develop, organize and build events for fundraising purposes, and building and organizing a volunteer base to support these events and other needs of ASW.
Tell us about A Special Wish. What should we know & how can we get involved? A Special Wish Foundation, Inc. (ASW), was the first wish-granting organization in Ohio and the third such organization in the nation at that time. he organization was founded in 1982 by Ramona Fickle, a former Hospice volunteer, who was concerned about the lack of services in Ohio for children with life-threatening disorders. ASW is the only wish-granting organization in the United States which grants wishes to qualifying infants/children/adolescents from birth through and including the age of 20 years. 95% of individuals who work for ASW do so as volunteers. ASW receives its monetary support solely from donations and fund raising. There are three kinds of wishes – a “special” gift, a “special” place, or a “special” hero, and the average cost of a wish is $4000.
You can get involved in many different ways, including fundraising, marketing, internships, website and social media management, grant research and writing, committees, organizing and working special events, writing wish stories, photography, public speaking, art and design, office work, and planning and developing wishes. Contact me (Pam Spring) at 614-258-3186 or firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more!
What gets you up in the morning? And what gets you through the workweek? My passion has always been compassion, and knowing that what I am doing is helping others is what gets me up in the morning and gets me through the workweek! It’s the relationships in any job that puts the icing on the cake, and meeting wish children and their families and keeping in touch with them warms my heart.
What advice or mentors have helped guide you along the way? The advice that I received from the first principal I worked with, was that the relationships you build with your students is what really can make a difference in that child’s life, and I have strived to build positive relationships with those I meet, whether a student, a wish child/family, or a partner or sponsor. I have always loved a plaque that ASW gave me years ago as a volunteer, and it says, “A hundred years from now . . . it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove . . . but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.” (Anonymous)
Explain some of your work-life balance challenges. How do you achieve success in spite of the hustle and bustle? As a teacher, it wasn’t just a job, but a lifestyle, and being a teacher is a big part of who you are as a person. I find that to also be true working for a non-profit. You get so invested in the wish children and their families, that it becomes a part of who you are. Often, ASW events are in the evenings and on weekends, which is traditionally “life” time, but becomes “work” time. This is the biggest challenge of my position with ASW. I am definitely a Type A personality, so the work-life balance is an ongoing challenge and something that I have to continually work on.
What do you do or where do you go to unwind? My partner of 28 years and I have owned a house at Buckeye Lake since Sept. 2000, and going out there, particularly during the warmer months, feels like a mini-vacation every weekend! I love a good massage every month and I have been into adult coloring for a couple of years, which clears my mind and helps me relax. I used to run a lot to clear my mind, but those days have passed!
When you were a kid, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up? I always said that I wanted to be a nurse or a teacher, which were probably the two main occupations for women at the time. Later in life, I thought about maybe interior design or physical therapy.
What might someone be surprised to know about you? I think that most people see me as confident and self-assured, but I’m actually pretty sensitive and get my feelings hurt easily.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be? If I could have a superpower, it would definitely be to eradicate cancer. It has affected so many people that I love, and I have lost many of them. When I see how it affects our wish children and families, it breaks my heart.
What books/podcasts are you reading/listening to right now? I’m in a book club with teachers who I used to teach with, and the last book I read was Unselfie, Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, by Dr. Michele Borba. I don’t often listen to podcasts, but have listened to The Daily (New York Times, Michael Barbaro) and The Flipping 50 Show (Debra Atkinson).
What would your autobiography be called?I’ve played a lot of sports – basketball, volleyball, softball, and golf – so I think I would call my autobiography, “Giving Life My Best Shot.”
What are among the top places you’d recommend to someone who is visiting or new to Columbus? There are so many wonderful places to visit in Columbus, but the top places I would recommend are the Scioto Mile, the Short North Arts District, the Arena District, the Brewery District, German Village, the Columbus Museum of Art, COSI, and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
Which organizations are you involved with around the community? Working for a nonprofit keeps me pretty busy and involved, but I’m also involved with CYP, GETDOT, and Stonewall Columbus. I donate monetarily to numerous organizations, including A Special Wish Foundation, American Red Cross, Charity Newsies, Faith Mission, Komen Columbus, and Mid-Ohio Foodbank.
Tell us about a community initiative that you’re most passionate about. “The foundation of every state is the education of its youth.” (Diogenes) Being an educator, I’m always passionate about any initiative relating to children. Although I often disagree with Gov. DeWine, I am encouraged by his newly created Office of Children’s Initiatives, which includes programs for development and growth in infants and toddlers and early childhood education and intervention, increasing funding for newborn home visits, early childhood education, mental health professionals in schools, foster care, and drug abuse prevention education.
What’s the most exciting thing about Columbus right now? I think that the most exciting thing about Columbus right now is the rate of growth of our city and surrounding communities.
What are three things you wish Columbus had? I can only think of two . . . 1) Columbus is growing rapidly and is badly in need of a mass transportation system of some kind. 2) I love the Buckeyes, but I think it would be nice to have a professional football team.
If someone were to ask you what the “pulse” of Columbus is, what would you tell them? I feel the “pulse” of Columbus is its desire for and acceptance and celebration of diversity.