Alison Allensworth, currently a volunteer for the Happy Cart, volunteers in many different positions at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. In 2013, Allensworth began at St. Jude through the Volunteen program, a competitive summer program for high school students that only accepts 30 applicants.
Allensworth said when she opened her acceptance letter for the program she broke down in tears. She said the opportunity to serve at St. Jude through the Volunteen program humbled her.
“The mission and drive I experienced from employees was awe-inspiring and I knew I wanted to be a part of that,” Allensworth said.
The Happy Cart provides patients and siblings with toys, games and activities, as well as amenities for caregivers. Allensworth said this placement is her favorite of the volunteer positions she has held, which include working as a Helping Hands volunteer and tour guide.
“Often times, the kiddos want toys or coloring books, but it’s the kids who want you to stay in their room and start building Legos with them that are the best,” Allensworth said. “Every visit has resulted in a changed perspective on life. The kids taught me so much about appreciating the little things, to always smile no matter the circumstance, and to live life as fully as possible.”
Allensworth said the St. Jude mission made an impression on her even as a child watching her sister get involved in fundraising opportunities for the hospital.
“Throughout my childhood, I attended many Up Til’ Dawn events with my sister while she was in college,” Allensworth said.
Allensworth said her passion for the hospital and its mission drives her to educate others about the work happening here. In 2014, she organized a St. Jude fundraiser for toys through the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls.
“To say that St. Jude has made an impact on my life would be an understatement because it has completely changed and molded my life, and I am so grateful for that. I will be forever thankful for the opportunities that I have had to work with a world-renowned hospital,” Allensworth said.
She said the best aspect of volunteering is the interaction she has with kids through the Happy Cart. She said their sweet natures inspire her.
“They face challenges far greater than I have ever experienced, and yet, they can still smile even after a chemotherapy treatment,” Allensworth said. “That’s not something that can be overlooked, and it is something I truly admire about the patients and families of St. Jude.”
During her time as a Happy Cart volunteer, Allensworth has met many patients and families, and she remembers several specifically. When she first began on the Happy Cart as a Volunteen, she visited a boy who had a gleam in his eyes upon seeing the toys from which he could choose. Allensworth said the boy and his father went immediately to the lobby area to play with his new toys.
Another memory Allensworth holds close to her heart is of a non-English-speaking girl who wrapped her arms around Allensworth’s neck when choosing a toy from the cart.
“Years later, I ran into their family and the patient ran up and hugged me,” Allensworth said. “It was so heart-warming to see that patients truly do remember you, even in times when they couldn’t really get to know you.”
Allensworth said as a volunteer she feels genuinely appreciated by hospital staff. She said volunteering at St. Jude allows her to build relationships and network with a diverse group of people.
“As a volunteer, you get to know the Volunteer Services staff pretty well. I love the ladies of this department because they’re so personable and fun,” Allensworth said. “The nurses, doctors, researchers, even the cafeteria workers are people with phenomenal backgrounds, and it’s definitely something every volunteer should take advantage of getting to know them.”
Allensworth also served as an intern in Volunteer Services for both summer and fall sessions, which also led to interning at Target House and at the Region 5 Field Operations office for ALSAC.
“This place is remarkable, and it is truly an honor and privilege to be a part of this hospital,” Allensworth said.