Peekskill’s Kristine Burton, Make-A-Wish Hudson Valley’s new chief executive officer, has had a long career in the nonprofit field.
She comes to the Tarrytown-based charity after leadership roles with Madison Square Garden’s Garden of Dreams Foundation, and Special Olympics New York.
Burton is an Ossining native who graduated from high school there before receiving a bachelor’s degree in communication and minor in public relations from SUNY Geneseo in 1992.
Her father, Joseph Burton, was the Ossining police chief for nearly 25 years before retiring.
Burton will now be in charge of an organization that has granted the wishes of more than 3,000 children with critical illnesses since it was chartered in 1986. The chapter serves a region that includes Delaware, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester counties.
She succeeds Thomas J. Conklin, who retired after 17 years. The last wish Conklin participated in was the chapter’s 3,000, delivering a puppy to 14-year-old Juan Alonso in October.
Here’s a Q&A with Burton about her new position:
River Journal: You’ve had a leadership role at some of the most well-known nonprofits in our area. What drew you to this career?
Kristine Burton: I have always known growing up that I wanted a career that would make a difference. Service to others is something that was instilled in me from a very early age. I honestly could never see myself doing anything other than working with a non-profit organization and doing work that helps someone in need.
One defining moment for me, growing up as a New York Rangers fan, I attended their annual Toys for Tots with Rangers alumni Adam Graves every year. I was so inspired by the impact that he and this event made on underserved children in New York City that it made me interested in how these events happened. It made me realize at a young age that this is something I wanted to do — it truly helped define my career aspirations and led me on my career path.
RJ: How have you seen the role of these charities change over the years, and what have you/they done to adapt?
KB: I think non-profits on a whole have evolved into much more organized and professional businesses. There also are so many organizations now that serve very important niche constituents which is so vitally important. In addition, supporters of philanthropy have become more discerning and careful about their support, which is understandable and commendable.
Non-profits have had to become more transparent and demonstrate the organization’s mission and impact in a much more sophisticated way. And as with all areas, the pandemic has really altered the landscape of how non-profits operate — and while it has been a tough few years, I believe as we continue to emerge there is so much opportunity for growth and new ways to deliver on our mission.
RJ: What led you to seek the CEO position at Make-A-Wish, and what are your goals?
KB: I have had the great pleasure and honor of being connected to Make-A-Wish Hudson Valley for over 15 years through my previous role with MSG’s Garden of Dreams Foundation as Make-A-Wish was one of our partner organizations. For the past year I have served on the board at Make-A-Wish Hudson Valley. Alongside the remarkable staff and volunteers, my most important goal for our chapter is to continue to do everything possible to fulfill the wish of every eligible child undergoing treatment for critical illnesses in the Hudson Valley. Additionally, I aspire to share the mission and important work of Make-A-Wish Hudson Valley with our community so that we can make an even larger impact in the areas we serve.
RJ: Anything you’d like to add?
It is truly the honor and privilege of a lifetime to be selected to lead this outstanding organization. The mission of Make-A-Wish is remarkable and I can’t wait to get started fulfilling wishes and reaching even more children in the future who truly deserve to receive the power that a wish brings to a child with a critical illness and their family. I’m even more thrilled to have the opportunity to give back and do this work right in the community I grew up in.
Watch Make-A-Wish Hudson Valley fulfill its 3,000 wish: https://youtu.be/Z44_AiNwuxY