April 15, 2005

VCH looking for a few good volunteers

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Eighteen-year-old volunteer Marie Brault plays with 4-year-old Hamer Goolsby in one of the many patient playrooms at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.
photo by Dana Johnson

VCH looking for a few good volunteers

Marie Brault has come back for more. A former leukemia patient at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, Brault waited less than a year after becoming cancer-free to come back to the hospital as volunteer.

“I like all the ages,” Brault said about the patients she spends time with. “Each age has its fun elements and I think it's good to get a variety of experience. I can give parents a break, or if a parent can't be here, I can take a child out of their room and bring them to the playroom to spend time, or if they don't want to leave their room, I can bring toys or games in to them.”

Brault's volunteer work usually means a couple of hours of play with patients in the playrooms at VCH on Sunday afternoons. But she needs help, and the Volunteer Services Department could use more like her, both at the children's and adult hospitals.

“We have a teen volunteer program during the months school is out,” said Stephanie Van Dyke, director of Volunteer Services for both VCH and Vanderbilt University Hospital.

“Teens have a lot of energy and they can provide a fresh perspective because they are young and have such a positive outlook. That works well with children, and the adults in the hospital too.”

Brault, who is a junior at University School of Nashville, was diagnosed with leukemia in the eighth grade. She went through a year of chemotherapy treatments at VCH and was told she was cancer-free by the end of her freshman year.

“Part of the reason I came back was to get over any lingering fear or discomfort I had about being in the hospital,” Brault said. “But once I started working with the kids, I found out I could also relate to them in a way other volunteers might not be able to. Partly because I'm young, and partly because I know what it's like to be a patient.”

Brault encourages other teens to volunteer as well, saying it's a lot of fun for the volunteer, but it's also good for the kids.

“Despite the fact they are in the hospital, kids are still kids,” Marie said. “They are still ready to joke around and play and just make the best of it, and the teen volunteers can help them do that.”

Volunteer service requirements

Time period — June 1 through end of August. Applicants must volunteer a minimum of eight weeks and teen volunteers in the summer program are eligible to continue during the school year.

Age requirements — Selected areas for 15-year-olds, 16 and 17-year-olds have a broad selection, but some areas require volunteers to be 18-years-old and a high school graduate.

To apply: visit www.vanderbiltchildrens.com or www.mc.vanderbilt.edu and print off an application and questionnaire.

Mail or hand in to Volunteer Services by April 29.