Category Archives: Service Stars

Volunteer Spotlight: Inpatient Units

What do volunteers do on the inpatient units?

Spend time with children, mostly one-on-one:  patients and their siblings LOVE to PLAY! Inpatient volunteers assist with arts & crafts projects, bring children to our inpatient playrooms, play games,  read books, watch movies, rock babies, or simply chat and keep children company in their rooms.

Volunteer Mary Ellen Kruger in the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

Our Inpatient Unit Volunteers Make a HUGE Difference at Children’s!

In 2011, Children’s volunteers:

-volunteered  25,366 total hours on our inpatient units

-Completed approximately 45 volunteer shifts each weekday and 12 shifts a day each weekend for a grand total of 12,490 three-hour inpatient shifts in 2011!

-Volunteers spend time with an average of 2-3 patients during each volunteer shift, which means that, in 2011, they interacted with approximately 31,225 Children’s patients!

We want volunteering to be a meaningful experience for volunteers, as well as those we serve. Why do volunteers share their time at Children’s Hospital?

“I volunteer because I love working with kids. This is a chance for me to do what I love while gaining insight into the healthcare industry!”

Nickie Fowler, inpatient volunteer

“Volunteering at Children’s has been one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences of my life!”

Lea Dinndorf, inpatient volunteer

“I receive so much joy and contentment from volunteering at Children’s…it’s the highlight of my week!”

Roxanne Lerum, Infant Care Center volunteer

Volunteer Kyle Anderson playing with patient

Volunteers mean so much to the patients, families and staff here at Children’s Hospital!

“All of the volunteers were great!”

Family Survey

“The volunteer staff was wonderful, so caring and fun. I want to thank ALL of them.”

Family Survey

“You volunteers all make such a difference here for these children.  I am so very grateful every day for all that you do.”

Kate Beaudin, RN, PICU (Children’s-Minneapolis)

“A mom stopped in the Family Resource Center today and mentioned that the two things that really make her son’s day at Children’s are…X-Box and VOLUNTEERS!”

Carolyn Reseland, Family Resource Center

Happy National Volunteer Week to all of our inpatient unit volunteers! Thank you for making a huge positive impact on the lives of Children’s patients, families, and staff!

Making Every Day Special: St. Thomas MEDS Volunteers!

At new volunteer interviews, applicants are asked how they found out about the volunteer program here at Children’s Hospital.  Often, volunteers have found our website (or this blog!) through online searches, Facebook, friends, teachers or other advisors. When asking this question of our applicants this fall, Lisa and Kristi noticed a trend:  many new volunteers were mentioning that they were a part of the St. Thomas MEDS program, and had learned about this opportunity from a current volunteer…Katie Boyd!

As new volunteers continued to mention the MEDS program, coordinators touched base with Katie Boyd to learn more.  Katie explained that MEDS (Making Every Day Special) is one of the sub-groups of the student group Volunteers in Action (VIA).  VIA is a service organization through Campus Ministry at the University of St. Thomas. Participants serve the Twin Cities metro area through a variety of local organizations committed to service and social justice. Katie, who is a MEDS Site Leader, notes that “a lot of the students involved in the MEDS program are striving to have a career within the medical field someday.” The MEDS volunteers are active at Children’s Hospital and United Hospital.

Eight MEDS volunteers are currently active with Children’s Hospital in St. Paul:  Becca Kummer and Kristin Braden are “float” volunteers, assisting with many tasks on the inpatient units; Kirsten Lambert is a Developmental & Rehabilitation volunteer; Katrina Miller and Suzanne Mages spend time with patients in the Epilepsy Unit; Katie Boyd and Britney Gorman are 4th floor inpatient unit volunteers; and Marianna Moffatt volunteers in the Emergency Department.

VIA-MEDS Volunteers (pictured above, L-R): Katie Boyd, Suzanne Mages, Britney Gorman and Becca Kummer

THANK YOU to our wonderful MEDS group volunteers!  What a fantastic bunch of enthusiastic, committed, fun and driven young people!

KARE 11’s “Eleven Who Care” Honors Marsha Ovitz of Breanna’s Gift

Congratulations to Marsha Ovitz,  founder of arts organization Breanna’s Gift and volunteer at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, for being recognized as a KARE 11 “Eleven Who Care” Award Recipient this year!

(Photo from KARE 11) Marsha Ovitz with a child at Amplatz Hospital

Breanna’s Gift volunteers have provided opportunities for children and their families to participate in dance, arts, theater and music activities at both the Minneapolis and St. Paul Children’s Hospital campuses since 2009.

We are so fortunate to have Marsha Ovitz and fellow Breanna’s Gift volunteers here at Children’s Hospital! The impact that dance, arts and music have on the lives of our patients and families at Children’s is incredible. We so appreciate the time and talents you share with us here! Thank you!

(Photo from Breanna's Gift Facebook page) Breanna's Gift dance teacher Miss Shelly and her dance line, "The Pearls," performing on the Kids' Clubhouse closed-circuit TV show at Children's-Minneapolis.

For More Information:

To learn more about Breanna’s Gift, please visit their website at:

KARE 11 visited Marsha and fellow volunteers Betz and Ed Ulrich at a recent Breanna’s Gift program! To see video from their work with children, and an interview, visit KARE 11’s website by clicking HERE, or at this link:–Marsha-Ovitz-brings-smiles-to-kids-battling-cancer

Each year, since 1983, KARE 11 recognizes eleven outstanding community volunteers. These volunteers have been nominated and are selected by the Eleven Who Care Board of Governors.  You can learn more about KARE 11’s “Eleven Who Care” recognition, and learn more about all of the 2012 award winners at the KARE 11 website:

Volunteers Are Service Stars: Mary Pike, Sibling Play Area

    We’re always thrilled to recognize the great work of our fantastic volunteers!  Today’s “Service Star” is Sibling Play Area volunteer Mary Pike, who received the following acknowledgment from staff member Patty Sandkamp:
“Mary Pike deserves kudos today for her flexibility in the moment.  We were slow in SPA today; however, a family came in with a social worker, wanting to check-in their son so they could go and talk in private. Unfortunately, their son had an active cold and cough, so he could not stay in SPA.  The social worker mentioned that she was going to call Volunteer Services. I asked them how long they thought the meeting would be, and clarified where they were meeting. Logistics covered, I asked Mary if she was willing to be with this young boy.  He was very easygoing about all of this, so it seemed a good match for Mary. We put together a tray of things to do, with items he could take home, and they set off.
Mary’s flexibility was highlighted because she had just walked in the door from a short break as I was talking with the social worker and family. Mary was willing to step out of the norm of her volunteer role and it made a huge difference for the family!
Thank you, Mary, for being willing to serve ‘in the moment!'” 
-Patty Sandkamp, MA, CFLE
Child Life Associate, Sibling Play Area

A Day in the Life of a Children’s Hospital Volunteer

Each week is different as a Children’s Hospital Volunteer! We asked Meredith Gilroy, a fantastic volunteer at Children’s Hospital in St. Paul, to take us through a “typical” volunteer shift on the inpatient units.

Meredith writes:

“Volunteers at Children’s-St. Paul start off their day at the Volunteer Services office. Here, volunteers sign in, pick up their red vest, keys and the (oh-so-important!) float phone, and stop to say “hello” to Kristi and Lisa. After leaving the Volunteer Services office, it’s up to the inpatient floors to visit patients!

Meredith signs in for her volunteer shift and checks in with Lisa Munson, Volunteer Coordinator

First, I check in at the nurse’s station to see if they know of any patients who need a volunteer, and go from there. Sometimes when I’m logging in at the Volunteer Services office, Lisa or Kristi will give me a few room numbers for patients who have requested a visit from a volunteer, and I start with a visit to those rooms.

I’m a “float” volunteer here at Children’s Hospital. Float volunteers serve all the inpatient units, and are often called throughout the shift by nurses or the Volunteer Services staff, with requests to check on patients who would enjoy visiting with a volunteer. The activities volunteers do with the children on the inpatient units on a daily basis range from reading a book, watching a movie, playing a game, hanging out in the playroom, doing a craft project with the Child Life staff, or going for a ride in the Fisher Price car around the wing. Sometimes we even have a visit by one of the PAWH Program dogs! One of the many benefits to being a float volunteer is that we are able to visit every patient wing of the hospital and spend time with children anywhere, from newborns to teens.

Meredith checks in with Lois Lindquist, a nurse on the 4th floor inpatient unit, and assists with keeping the playroom tidy!

No two volunteer shifts are the same for a float volunteer!

When I first started volunteering at Children’s Hospital, I was looking to help the kids in the hospital any way I could. I never imagined how much I would take away from it. There is never a day I leave my volunteer shift without a smile on my face.”

Thank you, Meredith, for all that you share with us each day as a volunteer here at Children’s Hospital!

Volunteers Are Service Stars: Kenia Kaczor

Hearing kind words about volunteers from Children’s staff always brings smiles to our faces!  This past week, we received the following e-mail from Lisa Pham in Children’s Sibling Play Area, acknowledging the great work of volunteer Kenia Kaczor:

“I just want to recognize a volunteer, Kenia Kaczor, for her great can-do attitude in the Sibling Play Area!  It’s always a joy to have her come into SPA and adapt to whatever is needed of her.  I rarely have to redirect her or what she is doing in SPA; she just knows what is expected of her.  She is fantastic with kids of all age ranges and disabilities.  Especially today, she was not hesitant to interact with a child who was autistic and blind.  She guided and familiarized him with the toys that interested him.  I just wanted to make sure you all know what a great job she does in SPA.  We appreciate what Volunteer Services has to offer!” 
-Lisa Pham, Child Life Associate, Children’s-Minneapolis

Kenia Kaczor

THANK YOU, Kenia, for your amazing work in the Sibling Play Area!  We’re so happy to have you on our volunteer team!

Staff Service Star: Charles Lillicrap, PACU

We’re grateful for the great work of Charles Lillicrap, Unit Operations Coordinator in Pre-Op/PACU!  (Volunteers may recognize Charles from his prior position as a Child Life Associate in the Sibling Play Area!)
Charles was recognized by Surgery Family Waiting Room volunteer Lynda Summerville.  Lynda wrote:
“When I was in the Family Waiting Room this morning, I asked Charles Lillicrap if he could help locate a listing of the TV channels in the FWR.  (Many families inquire as to what TV channels are on the Children’s Hospital network.)  Charles quickly put together that list! It has been “unretrievable” all these years! 
I placed this list in the “red volunteer folder” and notebook, both located in the desk drawer.  Thanks to Charles and his “can-do” attitude!
Thank you, Charles, for your fantastic support of our volunteers!


Charles Lillicrap

Volunteers Are Service Stars: Karina Nash

Congratulations to Karina Nash, who was honored by the 7940 Epilepsy Unit Staff with a Service Star Award this week!   Dawn Limmer, 7940 Unit Operations Coordinator, sent our office the following note regarding Karina:

“Karina is an amazing volunteer–always willing to help in whatever way she can.  Today Karina dealt with an incredibly difficult and busy child.  She treated him with respect & dignity and really stepped up to the plate to help us out!  She is awesome!

Thank you, Karina, for all of your great work!

Karina Nash

Volunteers Are Service Stars: John & Stella Zabel

John and Stella Zabel have been volunteering at Children’s for almost 2 years.  This PAWH team has made a difference in the hospital stays of many children.  Stella is a 7-year-old Labrador Retriever who is a Delta Society Registered Pet Partner;  she and her handler, John, visit Children’s Hospital once a week.  Recently, John and Stella came in for a special request, and it didn’t go unnoticed!


Nicole Iammatteo, Occupational Therapist, writes:

“John and Stella – I wanted to say ‘thank you’ for your work with myself and my patient today.  You are so incredibly gifted and can work well with these kiddos.  Your calm demeanor is wonderful and what you and your dog bring is a gift that I’m honored to have with me during therapy.  I would never make the gains that I do without you and Stella.  You’re incredible.”

Thank you so much, John & Stella, for lending a hand (and paw) to our pet therapy program!

Volunteers Are Service Stars: Laura Ruiz Colon

Laura Ruiz Colon

Laura Ruiz Colon

Epilepsy volunteer Laura Ruiz Colon was recently nominated for a Service Star award by the parent of a pediatric patient.  Laura demonstrated exemplary service in the areas of excellence, respect and dignity, and communication. The parent stated, “Laura took such good care of the children so that I could have a break.  Her interaction skills with them were exceptional.  Keep up the good work!”

Fantastic job, Laura!  Thank you for sharing of your time and talents at Children’s!