Former Make-A-Wish Iowa CEO Admits To Embezzling Funds From the Charity That Sent Her Daughter to Disney World

Illustration for article titled Former Make-A-Wish Iowa CEO Admits To Embezzling Funds From the Charity That Sent Her Daughter to Disney World
Photo: Polk County Jail (AP)

The former CEO of Make-A-Wish Iowa, Jennifer Woodley, pled guilty last week to embezzling $41,000 from the charity organization that grants “wishes” to seriously ill children and their families. I personally can’t understand choosing to steal candy from the hands of sick babies when Wall Street is right there, full of financial firms and consulting groups with multi-billion dollar budgets! Sure, it’s higher stakes embezzling than a local charity organization (I’d imagine), but it’s also much more (hypothetically) profitable! ..... Not that I would ever encourage scamming or other illegal activity.


Woodley became CEO and President of Make-A-Wish Iowa in August 2019, and just a few months later she secretly gave herself an unauthorized bonus of $10,000, according to criminal complaints unsealed in January 2021. She concealed the bonus by adding it to a list of legitimate board-approved employee bonuses, which cost the organization a total of $15,540. AP reports that during her time at Make-A-Wish Iowa, Woodley also used a company credit card to spend over $23,000 on 84 unapproved personal purchases. She was dismissed from her role less than a year later, in July 2020, soon after the foundation found “financial irregularities” in their books during a compliance review.

Woodley’s first contact with the Iowa chapter of Make-A-Wish was actually through her family. Two of her daughters have had brain surgery, and the foundation granted one of them a trip to Walt Disney World before Woodley was hired as CEO of the foundation. Although Woodley’s salary has not been disclosed, her predecessor in the role, Chris Voggesser, made approximately $140,000 annually.

On January 21, 2021, Woodley was arrested and charged with two felony counts of first-degree theft and one felony count of fraudulent practices. She was released from the Polk County Jail after posting a $30,000 bond. Woodley’s guilty pleas were accepted by Judge Scott Beattie on Tuesday, and her sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 20th.

Freelance writer & night blogger at Jezebel. Lover of television, astrology, and sandwiches.


chocolate covered raisons d'être

This makes me sad and angry. My stepdaughter was the recipient of a Make-A-Wish trip when she was a kid. The people we dealt with were so kind and empathetic and really created an experience for her that put some much needed light back into her life at the time. I fervently hope this person’s actions don’t cause people to stop supporting Make-A-Wish.