Mighty Blog

National Volunteer Appreciation Week 2024 at Children’s Minnesota

Written by: Melissa Reeves, CCLS, family resource & volunteer coordinator and Annie Dressen, family resource & volunteer coordinator. 

This year, Children’s Minnesota is celebrating 100 years of caring for patients and families. In light of this impressive milestone, volunteer services staff recently visited the Children’s Minnesota archives in search of articles about volunteers or volunteering in honor of National Volunteer Appreciation Week.

Staff discovered tidbits of information scattered throughout Children’s Minnesota history photos of volunteers from decades ago and mentions of long-ago volunteer roles.

A photo from our archives of a volunteer at Children’s Minnesota working with a patient
A photo from our archives of a Children's Minnesota volunteer working with a patient

Bob the “toy doctor,” a volunteer from 1974 

Staff came across an article written in 1974, the first year of National Volunteer Appreciation Week, by the then director of volunteer services regarding a volunteer named Bob. 

At the time, Bob was “one of a growing corps of male volunteers at Children’s.” Patients called Bob a “toy doctor” and were inspired to “grow up to be volunteers.” Bob sounded like a jack-of-all-trades volunteer – in addition to spending time directly with patients, Bob also assisted in the emergency room and helped with movie nights and special events. Per staff, Bob “was a pushover for a game of pool.” Bob also took patients on tours to the lab to show them what happened to their blood after it was drawn and to [Abbott] Northwestern operating rooms! 

The dedication of our volunteers throughout the years

While volunteers no longer give hospital or operating room tours, or challenge patients to a friendly game of pool, the primary responsibility of Children’s Minnesota volunteers remains the same: easing and enhancing a patient and family’s hospital experience.  

The red volunteer uniform, a constant for over 40 years, makes our volunteers easy to identify; patients have come to know those in red as a person who is here to make their stay more comfortable and, dare we say, fun! 

A volunteer from the 1970s at Children’s Minnesota
A volunteer from the 1970s at Children’s Minnesota

Their impact by the numbers 

The steadfast dedication and commitment that volunteers display continues to be remarkable.  

In 2023, 350 volunteers gave over 20,600 hours (about two and a half years!) of their time to Children’s Minnesota patients, families and staff in 22 areas throughout Children’s Minnesota.  

Volunteer numbers from 2023

In addition to volunteers spending one-on-one time with patients, they also provided the following in 2023: 

  • Book Nook volunteers gave 6,262 books away to patients and siblings. 
  • Children’s Resource Ambassador volunteers served 1,850 families. These volunteers provide needed items such as toiletries, clothes and information on Children’s Minnesota’s wrap-around services. 
  • Amenities Cart volunteers provided 9,076 families with tea, coffee and snacks. 
  • PAWH volunteer teams (dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs + their human) had 7,076 patient, family and staff encounters. 
  • Horticulture volunteers had 1,725 St. Paul patients and families participate in plant-based activities. 

Thank you! 

During the 50th anniversary of National Volunteer Appreciation Week and Children’s Minnesota celebrating 100 years, we want to thank all past and current volunteers for their time, talents, energy and compassion that they’ve contributed to Children’s Minnesota throughout its history. Their impact at Children’s Minnesota is immeasurable, as is our gratitude for these incredible, red-vested humans. Thank you, volunteers! 

Learn more about becoming a volunteer at Children’s Minnesota here.