Meet & Greet with Wishing Star Foundation’s Katie Prugh
~August 3rd, 2023
Katie Prugh has taken the helm as the new executive director of the 40-year-old, Spokane-based Wishing Star Foundation.
Prior to stepping into this role, Prugh was the director of finance and mission advancement for All Saints Catholic School Spokane. She also served as the board vice chair for Wishing Star Foundation for three years and served on the board of the First Tee of the Inland Northwest, an organization that teaches kids life skills through playing the game of golf.
A native of Montana, Prugh moved to Spokane with her family when she was in middle school. A graduate of Gonzaga Preparatory School, she holds a degree in integrated marketing communications from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, and an MBA from Minneapolis-based Walden University.
The Wishing Star Foundation has a stated mission to “provide Wish Kids with hope through uplifting and rejuvenating experiences.” The foundation helps kids up to 21 years of age who are battling a life threatening or terminal illness within Spokane County, Kootenai County, and the Tri-Cities area. It has a yearly budget of about $1 million, with five staff who work remotely.
So far this year, the organization has granted 20 wishes and has an additional 42 kids waiting on wishes that the organization is either working on or has slated for the upcoming years, depending on budget constraints and a child’s treatment schedule.
The Journal recently sat down with Prugh to discuss her new role, how she came to work in philanthropy, and what she hopes to accomplish.
What drew you to working in this field?
What drew me to working in a nonprofit organization was the opportunity to be involved in other areas of the community, give back, and feel that you’re having an impact. I was introduced to the Wishing Star Foundation in 2017 at a fundraising event, and it just captured my heart. I signed up to be a volunteer for the organization shortly after to help at events.
At the time, I was taking time away from the traditional workforce and raising my two small children, but I always tried to stay engaged and find causes that meant a lot to me. My tenure with the board of the First Tee of the Inland Northwest was coming up, and after that ended, the Wishing Star Foundation Board approached me about joining as a board member. I was privileged enough to serve on their board for three years, and I last held the vice chair position.
How is the organization funded?
Primarily, funding for our organization comes from organizations, corporations, and private donors in the community. The average cost of a wish is $7,500 to $8,000, with some wishes going well above that range.
We granted one wish recently that was well over $25,000 to a little girl named Finley down in the Tri-Cities. Finely is in a wheelchair, and we did a backyard makeover with an accessible play space with a playhouse, a therapy swing, and a therapy table for her to be able to have other friends like her come over and play in a welcoming environment.
Speaking to her mom, she said that it’s such a wonderful blessing to them as well because it helps them create community and be able to welcome others in.
We granted a wish last year to a Wish kiddo named Mason, who is a little cowboy at heart and wanted to visit the Fort Worth (Texas) Stockyard. As a gift to us, he raised a pig this year. I had no idea all that goes into this—he had to feed it twice a day and make weight and then he took it to auction and auctioned this pig off. In early July, he presented us with a check for over $9,300. So now we are going to be able to grant another wish because of one of our own Wish kiddos.
Does Wishing Star only focus on granting wishes to kids with a life threatening or terminal illness?
I always like to talk about our other two programs that I think set us apart. So, of course, we have the wish granting, which is the main thing we do. But what drew me so much to the organization was the other support that we offer.
We have a program called After the Wish. In the unfortunate circumstance that one of our kiddos passes away, we offer support not only for funeral expenses, accommodations, and planning, as well as financial support for counseling services for the family afterward. A year after the child’s passing, we coordinate a weekend getaway for the family to help celebrate the life of their loved one. We always say, “once a Wish Family, always a Wish Family.”
Then we have Beyond the Wish. Right now, we have 42 kids waiting on wishes and because of budgetary reasons, we can only do so much. What we do is organize different events in the community to bring (together) these families who are experiencing similar isolating events in their lives, (so they) can gather and foster relationships with other families and kiddos going through similar situations.
What obstacles do you foresee in your new role?
I wouldn’t see them as obstacles but more of opportunities. Opportunities to meet with more people in Spokane, North Idaho, and the Tri-Cities and educate more people about what we do and then create those partnerships to be able to bless more kiddos with wishes. Everything takes funding, and we’re proud that this year, 76% of every dollar that we brought in went toward our programs.
What do you hope to accomplish in your new role?
I hope to continue the momentum that’s already been started. This is our 40th year, and in the past five years or so, Wishing Star is creating more impact in our community, reaching more families, and blessing more children with light in their lives during a time that most of us will never experience.
I want to continue that, and I want to continue to grow. One of our main goals is to grow in North Idaho. I would love to see more Wish kiddos from Kootenai County so we can really grow and expand over in that region.