Carole DiMaso, a New York native, started volunteering at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in September 2002 as a Child Life volunteer in the Kay Research and Care Center (KRCC) playroom on the leukemia floor.
She can typically be found cleaning the playroom and its toys or visiting with patients on the floor. DiMaso said she felt drawn to St. Jude since her teenage years, when she saw her mother donate to the hospital.
“Since I was a teenager, I have volunteered at hospitals, and my mom always gave to this hospital, so I hoped they would let me work here,” she said.
Since she began volunteering at St. Jude, DiMaso has had her own experience with cancer, which has opened her eyes to what the patients here experience. She said she has a better understanding of what patients face on a daily basis. She said she can empathize even more with the children because of her struggle.
A large portion of her shift is spent performing the relatively mundane task of cleaning the playroom and the toys found there. However, her own experience with cancer has changed her perspective on a task that would be a burden to most.
“I know how important it is to keep everything clean. Now, I understand better how important that is,” she said.
DiMaso’s lengthy tenure in the KRCC playroom has allowed her the chance to get to know some of the families residing on the floor. She recalled several patients specifically she has grown close to over the years in the playroom.
One patient, she remembered, loved to tell her about his country and his hopes of becoming a doctor one day.
DiMaso also described another patient she saw regularly, who loved to play games and paint, but who spoke a different language. She said despite the language barrier that existed between them, they had a special connection.
“I love the patients and their families. They come from all over—each with a story—and they inspire me,” DiMaso said.
Despite her long tenure volunteering at St. Jude, DiMaso said she hopes she has helped the patients and families here in some way, however small it may be. DiMaso has recently begun volunteering in the new St. Jude Ambassador program, assisting all patients, families and guests as they enter the building.
“I doubt I’ve impacted anyone I help, but I don’t see myself as having impacted anyone,” she said humbly describing the effect her service at St. Jude has had over the past 15 years.