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August 2004

"Share in the Power of a Wish®"
with Kitty Kotaska

by Margaret BERGER

Embedded in every photo is a hint of who we eventually become. Just as body language often suggests our intentions, photos often reveal an element of one's personality that is not readily apparent.

When Kathleen, otherwise known as "Kitty" within the community, graduated from kindergarten, she enjoyed the heady experience of having her wish come true. She wished to wear her red shoes to her graduation ceremony. She likened those red shoes to the ruby slippers worn by Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. With her red shoes and her fancy "reversible" dress, life was full of promise! In her early years, her wishes were of humble mixture, for days to be longer and unending sunshine. As she evolved, her wishes broadened to include goodwill for her family, friends and her community. Her wish list was endless with opportunities to be realized.

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Kitty at 7 months old. Kitty at 2 years old.
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Kitty in her famous ruby red shoes at Kindergarten graduation. Kitty with her siblings left to right: Timothy, James, Kitty, Debora, Patricia and Mary Beth.

Growing up in a large family cultivated her imagination and inspired future wishes. Being the oldest of six children nurtured a sense of responsibility for her siblings as she helped to care for them. Raised with strong familial commitment and values, her parents, Norma and Jim Marsden, expanded their core values to include their community as well.

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Kitty’s parents, Norma and Jim Marsden, are currently Make-A-Wish volunteers. Kitty and Gary’s wedding, June 1972, with Kitty’s 5 siblings, Gary’s 4 siblings and good friends.
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Kitty and her dad walking her down the aisle. Kitty with sister Patricia at her wedding and her sister Debora.
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Kitty and her mom. Kitty and Gary on vacation in Florida.

Kathleen found her interests in pursuing a specific career to be a natural extension of her family. She attended Dutchess Community College and obtained a degree in Early Childhood.

With her career under way teaching pre-school in Westchester County, she married Gary Kotaska, a law student in NYC. All of her and his siblings were in the wedding party! After law school, they returned to Buffalo to raise their family. Kitty and Gary, married 31 years have four children, twins Jonathan and Robert, Andrew and Katie. While the children were young, Kitty was a stay-at-home mom immersed in family activities, eventually volunteering at her children's school. In between mom related activities, Kitty completed her four year college degree, sometimes taking the youngest in a baby carrier to class with her.

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Kitty with son Robert. Kitty with son Jonathan.
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Kitty with son Andrew. Kitty shares a hug with daughter Katie.

As the children grew, Kitty soon again was immersed in teaching part-time at St. Paul's in Kenmore, then at St. Christopher's in Tonawanda. While at St. Christopher's, she designed and implemented a 3 and 4-year old nursery school program for the school where she remained teaching for 5 years.

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Rob, Kitty, Gary, Jon, Katie and Andrew. Gary, Kitty, Katie and Andrew on vacation.

After leaving St. Christopher's, Kitty expanded her work with children with a new position at the Robert Warner Rehabilitation Center. While at the Center, she worked with parents and children from birth to 7 years old; assisting with the placement of the atypical child in a mainstream classroom.

Three years later, continuing her involvement with children and the community, she accepted a position as Development Associate at St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute where she learned about the non-profit community and fundraising.

With seven years of fundraising knowledge, Kitty brought her experience to Buffalo Hearing & Speech Center, assuming the position of Executive Director of the Foundation.

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Kitty teaching at St. Christopher’s. Kitty working with Wish Child Clint at a “Wish Art Party”, while his mother looks on.

In 2002 Kathleen found herself embracing yet another opportunity in her life…and, much to her delight it had to do with "wishes"… more specifically, the Make-A-Wish Foundation® of Western New York. Make-A-Wish® grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy. Kitty became the CEO of this chapter in early January 2003. As CEO, she is involved in the operations of the chapter which are driven by the ultimate objective…to grant wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions.

The chapter grants 155 wishes per year. The average cost of a wish is $6,000. With these statistics in mind, Kitty's childhood wishes remain the same…for long days and endless sunshine.

So it seems Kitty has come full circle, from wishing to granting wishes!

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