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Volunteen Program at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital gives teens the opportunity to dedicate their summer vacation to helping children, while learning important lessons
Each summer, a select group of teenagers spend five weeks of their summer vacation to help children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases through the Volunteen Program at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The annual program allows teens to explore career paths and develop leadership and team-building skills while helping patients.
The program, for teens 16 to 18, is divided into two sessions, one beginning in May and the other in July. With only 30 spots available each year, the Volunteen Program is competitive, and each applicant must write an essay as part of the stringent application process. The Volunteens chosen come to the hospital two days a week, planning and executing special activities for the patients and their siblings.
“Most teens look forward to sleeping in and lazy days by the pool in the summer, yet we receive a flurry of applications each year for our Volunteen Program,” said Kathryn Berry Carter, director of Volunteer Services at St. Jude. “The teens have opportunities beyond measure, as each teen works closely with patients, siblings and parents. It also allows them to explore possible career paths while fostering self-awareness.”
While many of the Volunteen projects include arts-and-crafts or game themes—like “Under the Sea” or “Super Hero Day”—the teens also assist other hospital volunteers in their daily capacities. “As volunteers, we must never forget that even the smallest exchange with our patients and families can make such a tremendous difference,” Berry Carter said. “The difference may seem small, but creating smiles, cheerfulness, hope and laughter are priceless.”
On average, the Volunteen Program contributes more than 1,900 hours of service to St. Jude each year.