Volunteers have played a critical role in our operations from the very beginning, including our Baby Camp years. They helped the nurses to heat and wrap bricks that were placed in tubs to warm the babies’ tiny bodies. Today, our volunteers, among the many heroes and heroines at Children’s Health℠, can be found in every hallway, and their ongoing support is essential to our longevity. Children’s Health remains a not-for-profit medical center, dependent on the generosity of those who willingly give their time and attention to our patients and their families.
Children’s Health has more than 600 adult volunteers, representing a diverse set of working professionals, retired persons and seniors, as well as 200 student volunteers. All provide comforting services and support to make life better for children.
In addition to providing adult and student volunteer programs, Children’s Health has a number of opportunities available for community volunteers. From group projects to individual support, these projects are perfect for community and faith groups.
Learn more about volunteering at Children’s Health Children’s Medical Center here.
Oswaldo Renteria’s volunteering adds up to much more than hours
High school math teacher Oswaldo Renteria can quickly calculate the volunteer hours he’s accrued at Children’s over the past eight years – somewhere in the 3,600-plus range. But it’s just a number, he says, and one he doesn’t analyze too much.
Instead, he thinks more about the smiles he works to get from kids.
“Sometimes you have to put some effort into helping kids forget they’re in a hospital,” he says. “But I really try to put myself out there and get out of my comfort zone. That’s what we’re here for, and the best way we can help the kids. “
Renteria is used to being around children. Not only does he teach in the Dallas ISD, he has been volunteering, usually in the playroom, since he was a teenager – even coming home some weekends while away at college.
His first experience at Children’s was life changing, in more ways than one. When he was 13, he spent almost two months in the hospital due to complications from appendicitis. “I remember being in the playroom and the volunteers helping me. It really opened my eyes. For the first time, I saw all these people come together for a cause. Everyone – the staff, nurses, doctors – were so kind and encouraging,” he recalls.
As soon as he was old enough, Renteria became a volunteer and found he really enjoyed the experience. Today, he enjoys it so much that he volunteers all day every Saturday and Sunday, plus some weekend and summer camps.
“It really helps me to stay positive,” he says. “You meet a lot of great people, like the staff and the other volunteers, plus the kids and their families. Being a healthy person, it really puts things into perspective when you are holding a tiny baby hooked up to wires and IVs.”
There have been sad occasions, when some of the children have passed away. “What I’ve learned when this happens is how much those kids have taught me how to live,” he says. “When I look back at the time I spent with them, I remember how positive and appreciative they were. I remember their smiles.”
For Corby Charles, sharing and caring go hand in hand
Volunteer Corby Charles is a role model to many of the patients that he interacts with in the Hematology Clinic at Children’s. But it’s not just because he has realized his ambitions to be in the medical field and is working right next door as a medical assistant at UT Southwestern Medical Center. What makes kids look up to Charles is that he has been where they are – but he never let illness slow him down.
When he was 9, Charles started coming to the Children’s Hematology Clinic for treatments for sickle cell. Every month until he was 17 he would have his blood levels checked, and every three months he received transfusions. Sometimes treatments were painful, and sometimes he suffered seizures related to his illness while at the clinic. For most people, it would not be a place or an experience they’d want to revisit.
But faithfully every Friday, Charles spends his mornings at the clinic, playing board games or blocks or watching a DVD with the children – anything to get their minds off treatment. “I share my personal experience with the kids,” he says. “I tell them to not let their illness get them down, that they can move on and do whatever they want to do with their life if they just stay focused.”
In addition to serving at the hospital, Charles also volunteers during weeklong and weekend summer camps for children with cancer. He helps by engaging them in activities. “But mainly I just make sure they’re having fun and getting their illness off their minds,” he says.
Kids aren’t the only ones that Charles counsels. Parents often ask about his background, and he shares with them his story and why he chooses to be a volunteer. “They have a lot of questions, and I try to help them by sharing what I went through during different stages,” he says.
And while he feels blessed to be able to help the adults, too, it’s “his kids” that make his volunteer work so rewarding. “There is just nothing as good as putting a smile of their face,” he says.
Kelly Spicer actually looks forward to Mondays
Kelly Spicer is a full-time professional, working as a senior project manager for Bank of America. Her days can be long – and so is her commute to and from her home in Frisco, Texas. But every other Monday she makes time to volunteer three to four hours at Children’s.
“Fourteen years ago, when I was newly married, I decided I wanted to give back,” recalls Spicer. “I knew Children’s was highly regarded, and when I looked into volunteering here, the program seemed very well organized. I could see it was a great place to help out, as well as make connections.”
She has made a lot of friends over the years at the Dallas campus where her “family” is. More importantly, as a “sitter” who spends one-on-one time with the children reading, playing games and doing puzzles, Spicer has found that she gets more out of being a helper than she ever expected.
“We all get stressed over things, either at work or home. But when you come here, it’s humbling and inspiring. Here are these really sick kids, and all they want to do is play. It grounds you, and lets you know what is truly important.”
So when Spicer was offered a position at Bank of America seven years ago, it was important to her that she could continue to make time for her volunteer work at Children’s.
Not only does her employer encourage her to give time, she can also leave the office a little early, as well as use allotted volunteer time at the Children’s weeklong summer camp. Additionally, based on employees’ volunteer hours to a non-profit, the company provides monetary support through grants. (Bank of America is also one of the Centennial Sponsors for Children’s.)
So while Spicer admits that Mondays can be long days, she still looks forward to them: “It’s a big need day for volunteers. And for me, it’s a great way to start my work week.”