For the last eight years, Westerville resident Nila Whitfield has helped make the wishes of more than 40 children come true.

For the last eight years, Westerville resident Nila Whitfield has helped make the wishes of more than 40 children come true.

As a result, the Make-A-Wish volunteer and fundraiser has been named an "outstanding volunteer" by the foundation's Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana Region.

Whitfield said she first volunteered for Make-A-Wish after a friend's child had a wish granted. That friend began volunteering and encouraged Whitfield to do the same.

"When I got ready to retire from Ohio State, she said, 'Nila, this would be perfect for you,'" Whitfield said.

Whitfield said the families she meets are what make volunteering for Make-A-Wish great.

"One little boy, Tater, wanted to meet (then-Dallas Cowboy) Terrell Owens. I didn't even know who TO was, and Tater at the time was only 3-and-a-half years old," Whitfield said. "I called the people in Dallas, and I said, 'When you meet this little boy, it's going to melt your heart.'"

Tater was born prematurely and was in need of a liver transplant, which he has since received, Whitfield said. Now 6, Tater still talks to Whitfield, she said.

"He's so cute," Whitfield said. "He just grabs your heart."

Another wish that sticks out in Whitfield's mind was given to Evann, a boy from Hilliard, who had spinal muscular atrophy. Wheelchair-bound, Evann wanted a play set for his backyard.

Whitfield worked with Make-A-Wish to get Evann a pirate ship-themed play.

"He was just playing like it was his personal pirate ship," she said.

Whitfield said volunteering with Make-A-Wish is incredible because she knows she's having an impact on the lives of families who see a great deal of hardship.

"The families are just so grateful, and they've been through so much," she said. "You know you get to bring them hope, strength and joy. It just changes their lives."

Tim McCarthy, executive director for Make-A-Wish's central Ohio region, said Whitfield stands out for her willingness to give her time and for her outstanding work fundraising for the organization.

"She's done a lot of things for quite a few years. Each year, she's been doing more and more," McCarthy said. "She loves the wish-granting, but she has made a commitment and a focus to work on the other area of Make-A-Wish volunteering, (fundraising)."

Whitfield spends a lot of time working with the Make-A-Wish staff and other volunteers, McCarthy said.

"Our staff loves Nila. She's just been a great help to us," he said. "As charity work goes, we only go as far as our best volunteers. That's part of the reason we've been successful, is volunteers."

Whitfield, who also volunteers with the Worthington Food Pantry, the Westerville Area Resource Ministry and as a tutor, said she loves working with Make-A-Wish because the organization give volunteers so much responsibility.

"We're the face of the organization to the families," Whitfield said. "The responsibility that they give us, I don't think you'd find anywhere else."