Category Archives: Guest Blogger

Choosing Children’s: Jane Taney

Jane’s Journey to Volunteering at Children’s:

“Children’s Hospital- Minneapolis, has a special place in my heart. On December 11, 1987, my daughter Lauren was diagnosed with a very rare childhood cancer. She underwent aggressive chemotherapy, leaving her immune system quite fragile; unfortunately she developed heart failure twice during her medical journey.

Lauren’s cancer and the incredible staff involved in her care gave me strength, determination, and a unique perspective in encouraging others… I knew I had to give back. Five years after her diagnosis, I co-chaired the Cancer Kids benefit and started a support group with another childhood cancer mom. I loved those experiences, but felt the desire/need to be one on one with families.

That desire led me to volunteer at Children’s. I started in the hematology/oncology clinic, and most recently at the Welcome Center as a Greeter Guide. With my past experience, I feel I can easily identify a lost or stressed face, and offer my assistance.

Thinking back on my life, dealing with my daughter’s cancer, I felt I lived here at Children’s. They were very, very difficult times. I recall my memories here, and take what I learned to try and be a more compassionate, wise, and understanding volunteer. . I truly love every minute of my volunteer shift.”

Give, Dream, Inspire!


Nick isn’t your average twenty-something year old college student, he is a young man with a mission. Thanks to his first volunteer experience, right here at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, he realized he has a lot to give and that possibilities are endless. Check out his post below.

 “I knew I wanted to do something, to add more meaning to my 20 year old life, but never knew what it was. After High School, my friends went off to college, and I took a semester off in hopes for opportunities to meet new people through getting involved with the community. After a web search, I came across Children’s Hospital. I applied to volunteer, went in for an interview, and was offered a position! I still remember my first shift: a nervous excitement, getting used to my surroundings, but the spark was there… and came to life after that shift. On my Children’s volunteer days, I would wake up happy. I made an effort to get good night sleep the day before, so that I had plenty of energy to work with patients.

 The feeling of knowing I was helping others, making a hospital stay a little less scary is indescribable.  I will never forget a patient I worked with; we never had that awkward first meeting stage, we were instantly buds. He challenged me to a game of Wii and I thought, “ok, I am older and really good at video games, so I will let him win.” Turns out there was no need for that, he was a skilled player and beat me time and time again! As my shifts at Children’s continued, I found myself signing up for more and more opportunities and charities that I could help with in the Twin Cities.

 I helped with a couple of other organizations serving less fortunate populations, which continued to open my eyes at the importance of giving back. After countless smiles, laughs, and friendships built from these experiences, I caught myself sharing my experiences with my friends, family, and peers… letting them know that my goal in life was to live happily, forever, with laughter! I found myself being called the “volunteering guy”, having numerous people call or email me, asking how they can get involved, which inspired me to help coordinate opportunities. I started living my personal mantra, and decided that the way I wanted to live, should be the name of my movement… ‘Happily Forever Laughter.’ The organization I created encourages peers to lend a helping hand, instilling in people that they have a worth, and a purpose and can do more that they may believe they can do. Getting out into different communities, meeting new people, and spreading happiness is the best medicine.

 Now, months and months later, I have coordinated over hundreds of volunteer opportunities, and have been given the opportunity to sign off on volunteer hours for other U of M students. I will never forget that my mission all started from my positive experience at Children’s Hospital.” -Nick DeMarco

From Patient to Volunteer: Sasha’s Story

Sasha Buchner has been volunteering at Children’s since May 2011.  In her own words, here is the story of how she became involved with our program:


“Three years ago, I was quickly approaching the end of my senior year in high school.  However, at the same time, I had an growing sense of dread that came to a peak when I developed a lump just over my collarbone.  On May 27th, 2010, 5 days before I graduated, I was diagnosed with Stage 2A Hodgkin’s lymphoma with bulk disease.  The adult oncology clinic that diagnosed me insisted that I start treatment right away–but then my mom got in contact with the Children’s Hem/Onc clinic in Minneapolis. They were willing to work with me so that I could enjoy the end of my senior year before starting treatment. It was such a relief that I didn’t miss anything.


One day, while I was receiving chemotherapy on the inpatient floor, I was feeling particularly nauseated.   I hadn’t eaten anything until two volunteers came around to the rooms pulling a wagon full of dirt pudding (Oreos, chocolate pudding, and gummy worms). Needless to say, I ate the delicious treat right away. At this moment, I realized that I wanted to give back to other kids with cancer by helping make their journeys a little bit brighter.


The Hem/Onc clinic is a special place within Children’s. Everyone is part of a community, all working towards the same goal of eradicating childhood cancer. I enjoy spending time with the patients and helping them to be kids and teens instead of diagnoses. Every day, I learn so much from them. It is my hope to put this knowledge to use as I pursue a career as a future teen and young adult oncologist. “

Thank you, Sasha, for sharing your amazing courage, compassion, and commitment to Children’s!

Guest Blogger: Kelly Jordan, Emergency Department Volunteer

Mindy Teele, ED child life specialist, and Kelly Jordan

Kelly Jordan is a current volunteer in the Children’s-Minneapolis emergency department who, after reading other volunteers’ blog profiles, decided to submit one of her own!  (Thanks, Kelly!)   Read on to learn more about her volunteer experience thus far…

“Toward the end of 2012, I heard that Children’s Hospital was accepting volunteer applicants—and I couldn’t apply fast enough! I remember it was during the holiday season, and I really wanted to do something that would let me give back to the community. I knew that I wanted to volunteer somewhere special where I got to work with children, which made Children’s Hospital the perfect fit for me!

After fulfilling the necessary requirements and completing an interview process, I was raring to get started, to say the least! The ball really started rolling after I attended the on-site orientation session, which was really cool. It gave me the opportunity to learn about Children’s Hospital and what makes it a special place, and let me connect me with other volunteers, who happened to be a lot like me!

After orientation, it was on to the Emergency Department, where I was teamed up with my trainer, Candace [Tacandrya Evans of Patient Registration].  She’s really an awesome person to work with! She works as a patient registration trainer and taught me all about the Emergency Department. Not only has she been with Children’s Hospital for a while, but she has a strong understanding of everything that happens and where everything is.

Currently, I volunteer primarily in the Emergency Department. It’s fast-paced, fun, and presents me with many unique challenges. Between taking Truth Point surveys, making sure patients have toys, and keeping siblings entertained, my time at the hospital flies by quickly! I usually hang out with Mindy [Teele], a Child Life Specialist in the ED. She is a ball of fun. She moves quick and always has a project for me to do. Her positive attitude is contagious (ha! I couldn’t resist!). From things to do during down time to tricks of the trade when approaching families to knowing where things are located — the stuff you’ll need to know when helping families — her insights are so valuable. The Emergency Department, like many traditional patient floors, has a lot of moving parts and people. I get to interact with doctors, nurses, therapists and technicians. Everybody has their own responsibility to ensure that everything runs smoothly — the department really is a well-oiled machine! And, even though everyone is focused on the task at hand, they’re all very friendly and will always greet you with a warm, inviting smile.

I wanted to become a volunteer because I wanted to give back to the community, and I couldn’t be happier with my experience at Children’s Hospital. I look forward to each day I get to walk into the volunteer office, and truly love what I do here. The one piece of advice I would give future volunteers is to give as much as you can, meet people, ask questions and interact. Greet everyone with a smile, and go the extra mile every chance you can. This opportunity has been a blessing — I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

 Cheers, everyone!”

Thank you, Kelly, for your contagious good cheer!  We are lucky to have you!

Bringing the Spirit of Volunteerism to Advocacy

Did you know that Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota has an Advocacy and Health Policy department? This department’s staff dedicate their time to promoting policies, initiatives and laws that support kids’ health, as well as Children’s ability to provide the best care possible.

As someone who already devotes your personal time to serving the needs of children, you understand the value of volunteerism and the positive difference that it can make in someone else’s (and your own!)  life. Advocacy is really an extension of that value because when people speak up for the issues that matter to them, like children’s health, we can have a big impact on the lives of many. Since the concepts of volunteerism and advocacy embody the same core values, we wanted to share more about our advocacy work so you can get involved if you’re interested!

Children's Advocacy Team: Kelly Wolfe, Anna Youngerman and Katie Rojas-Jahn

The advocacy team at work

Influencing government

A lot of what the Advocacy team does revolves around local, state and federal government policies. We work to inform policymakers about the most pressing health concerns faced by children in our region, and the value of a health care provider focused exclusively on kids.

For example, one of the public health care programs in Minnesota is called Medical Assistance (Medicaid) and it plays an important role in making sure kids have access to care. In 2011, 430,901 kids were covered through Medical Assistance.  As one of Children’s advertising posters states, “Any kid can get sick. Not every kid can afford to.” Because Children’s treats every child seeking care, regardless of ability to pay, the advocacy team works to make sure that Medical Assistance is funded appropriately to meet pediatric health care needs.

We also support programs at the state and federal level that fund education for pediatric students, residents and fellows to develop knowledge in their chosen specialties. Unfortunately, this funding has been threatened in recent years (in 2011, the state-based funds for this work, called MERC, were cut by 50 percent), so in 2013, Children’s will advocate for the preservation of remaining funds and restoration of the cuts.

In the community

The Advocacy and Health Policy team also supports ongoing community work to address some of the public health concerns facing kids today. Childhood obesity is on the rise across the U.S., and Minnesota is no exception. In our recent report, Children’s Check-Up 3: Starting Early to Prevent Childhood Obesity, we discussed the importance of starting early in the fight against obesity.

We also support the work of Vida Sana Minneapolis, a community-based program spearheaded by our own Dr. Julie Boman that provides community-based, culturally-appropriate programming for Latino families to reduce childhood obesity.

You can be a powerful advocate!

We hope that you’ll get involved with this work by signing up to be a part of our Children’s Advocacy Network (click the “Action E-list” link when page loads)—we’ll keep you updated on our work and let you know when you can take action in support of children’s health.

You can also follow the Voice for Kids blog and @childrenspolicy on Twitter. If you have more questions about our work, please contact Katie Rojas-Jahn at [email protected] or (612) 813-7111.


From Patient to Volunteer: Guest Blogger Meredith Shimek

Meredith Shimek has been volunteering with Children’s Hospital for a year, playing with children and sharing her time on the inpatient units. As a senior in high school, Meredith is writing about her volunteer experience for class and was kind enough to share her story with us, as well!

Volunteer Meredith Shimek

“In the summer of 2009, I went to see my pediatrician for my 14-year physical.  I come from a tall Minnesotan family, and with a brother towering over 6’5”, when I had stopped growing at 4’11”, it became apparent that something was a little off. My pediatrician began running blood tests, and a couple of weeks later, I was diagnosed with Turner Syndrome. A month later, after an Upper GI Endoscopy, I was also diagnosed with celiac disease. As a teenager, I didn’t really know what to think about this new information, but now I do know that if not for my many appointments at Children’s Hospital, I never would have become a volunteer, or become interested in medicine.

As a kid, I never had an interest in the medical field. I was squeamish about blood and notorious for fainting when I’d get a flu shot- in short, the hospital was a place that I dreaded going to and had no interest in. After being diagnosed with Turner Syndrome, I went to Children’s Hospital many times for echocardiograms or blood draws. I can’t remember a time that I wasn’t eager to leave, but I would see other kids, younger than me, being wheeled into a room connected to IVs, and I would notice the dedication and tact of the Children’s staff. Everyone worked together to help these young people, and that was something I wanted to be a part of. I became increasingly interested in the medical field and wanted to help foster the environment that makes Children’s such a welcoming hospital.

As I started my junior year of high school, I began volunteering in the Pediatric Epilepsy Unit at Children’s. During my first month of volunteering, I spent my shifts with a little girl. At first, she would talk about how she missed her dog, or how she was distracted by her IVs, but in the following weeks, she would actually have a good time with me. We’d spend our time making friendship bracelets or discussing People magazine articles. She left the hospital happy, healthy, and excited to tell her 4th grade class all about the games she played, the people she met, and the artwork & scrapbook that we’d put together.

After a couple months of volunteering, I was already eager to be trained in other areas of the hospital. The first day of summer vacation, I started my shifts on an inpatient unit. I ended up spending the entire morning with a little boy, having our own little “bedside party” blowing bubbles and party blowers to help his lungs. On a day when his parents couldn’t visit him, it was great knowing that he didn’t have to be lonely.

There are a couple of reasons why I have loved my time at Children’s. It is a place that has inspired me so much as I see these kids become physically healthy.  It also means so much to be able to help them through their time at the hospital. Now I know that I am more open to changing my mind, and more eager to make a difference and dedicate myself to something that matters to me.”

Thanks, Meredith, for the time and energy that you’ve shared with the kids and families here at Children’s! We are so glad to have you here! 

Summer Stories: Volunteer Katelyn Paget

Volunteer Katelyn Paget

Katelyn Paget volunteered over the summer months on the inpatient units, and is now beginning her first semester of nursing school!

What do you study, and what are your future plans?

I am going into my freshman year at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, studying nursing.

What made you decide to volunteer over the summer months at Children’s Hospital?

I decided to volunteer this summer because I am headed to college this fall and needed to solidify my decision that nursing was the right path for me to take. When you volunteer, you learn so much that will come in handy for any health care profession like what the emergency codes mean, precautions when entering the room, bedside manner, and so much more! After spending time firsthand in the hospital, watching all the nurses go about their jobs and interacting with patients, I am 100% sure that I want to be a nurse!

Tell us about a fun or memorable volunteering moment.

My most memorable volunteering moment this summer was when a little girl came into the playroom and we started to make a friendship bracelet out of embroidery floss;  two other patients then saw us making them and joined in.  Everyone started talking with each other-even the parents!  It turned into quite a party and was really fun! I am really glad that Children’s gave me this summer opportunity.

Thanks, Katelyn, for spending the summer with us at Children’s, and best of luck in the new school year!

Summer Stories: Wetschka Sisters

Maria and Anna Wetschka are sisters who both volunteer at Children's!

In this post, guest blogger Maria Wetschka writes about her experience as a summer inpatient volunteer at Children’s. Maria is currently a junior in nursing school at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. Maria’s sister, Anna, is going into her senior year of high school this fall at Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul.

What made you decide to volunteer over the summer months at Children’s Hospital?

“One of the main reasons I chose to volunteer at Children’s this summer is because of my sister Anna. Anna has been volunteering here for almost a year, and every time I would see her after a shift, she always had the biggest smile on her face. I knew that what she did while volunteering made her happy, and I wanted to find that same happiness in helping others!”

What was your most memorable moment from volunteering this summer?

“The moment I realized that what I was doing was meaningful was when I was playing with a child on the epilepsy floor. I spent an hour with a patient who I thought didn’t really want to play with me. Instead of letting that get me down, I tried my hardest to help her have fun. We passed time blowing bubbles, taking her doll on walks, and coloring princess pictures. When her mom returned, I still wasn’t sure if the patient had fun. As I said goodbye to her, what happened next surprised me. The patient ran to her door and gave me the biggest hug. She said “goodbye, Maria” over and over, and when I thought she was done hugging me, she let go and hugged me again. It was then I knew that even though it may not always seem like it to me, the impact I can have on someone is big.  Even if it means doing something simple like playing dolls, I have the ability to make someone who is in what can be a scary place feel happy and safe, and that is what I love most about volunteering.”

What would you like to do in the future?

“I am a junior nursing student at Creighton University, and I would love to work with children in the future. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience or way to spend my summer! I truly value every second I have spent volunteering and hope to be back next summer!”

Thank you, Maria and Anna, for sharing your time with us this summer!

Advice From A Past Volunteer (& Future Nurse!): Casey Monson

Volunteer Casey Monson with cat Sammy

“So you wanna be a nurse, huh?”

If someone had asked me this in college, I would have burst into laughter.  Me?  A nurse?  I could hardly pluck my mother’s eyebrows for her without getting a little squeamish; why would I ever pursue a health care career?

As a Children’s volunteer, I got to spend time in the hospital, but didn’t need to do anything that made me squeamish.  Making someone feel better when they are in the hospital goes far beyond caring for their medical needs. As a volunteer, you focus on the emotional needs of patients and their families.  Volunteering involved me driving 45 minutes from my house, sometimes getting stuck in traffic, and sweating without any air conditioning in my car…but all of that faded the moment my red vest went on.

As a volunteer, you meet children who will stay in your heart forever because of the connections that you make with them. I remember one young boy who wanted to play Wii:  luckily, I have brothers and am skilled in the art of video games! I played for him while he pointed out the football plays that I should have made.  I don’t know a thing about football, but we smiled and laughed anyway. That day, he was really sad to see me go, and it was difficult to end my shift!  Another child I won’t forget was in no mood to play. She only wanted to be held and rocked, and made it very clear that she was not happy to see the nurses when they needed to come in to check her blood sugar. They finished their tests quickly, and I was able to come back and continue spending time with her: just rocking and holding, rocking and holding.  As a volunteer, be prepared to just be a teddy bear sometimes!

It can be difficult for a child when a younger sibling is getting so much attention because they are sick. I will never forget these two sisters that I spent time with:  they had more energy than an entire soccer team confined in their two tiny bodies. We played “house” in the playroom, where I did “homework” and the girls (“Mom” and “Auntie”) told me what to do! I showed them the Japanese alphabet that I learned to write in college. They were so intrigued, and in return, they started writing their own alphabet’s characters.  It was then my turn to be the curious one!

Volunteers help out parents, too. I will never forget a mother who was nervous about leaving her child with me because of his special needs. I mentioned to her not to worry, I have a lot of experience with kids with special needs (most of this experience coming from my brother who has a similar disability). Her eyes lit up, and I was suddenly just the listener she was craving.  She felt so comfortable with me that I spent my entire shift with them.  Don’t forget to be a caring listener; it’s one of the best types of medicine out there.

So here I am, weeks away from beginning nursing school, and I only wish that I would have volunteered sooner. To all Children’s volunteers, new or veteran:  you’re making such a difference, not only in the lives you touch at the hospital, but in your own life. Because of you, others find relief, as well as a fun playmate:  you may find that you are a “jack-of-all-games!”  No matter what sort of day you have outside of Children’s, your time here each week makes you stronger, kinder, and filled with power to make a difference wherever you go.

Warmest thoughts from a volunteer, who never dreamed she’d want to become a nurse….ever.

Casey Monson
Inpatient Unit Volunteer, 2011-2012

Volunteer Profile: Tom Hayden

Tom Hayden

Tom Hayden has been volunteering on the inpatient units at Children’s-Minneapolis since 2009.  His warm smile, positive energy, and good humor are always great to see on Thursday mornings!  Here is a bit about Tom, in his own words:

“I was born and raised on a farm six miles east of LeSueur, the second of eleven children.  After high school, I spent two years in the Navy on the East Coast.  After the service, I received my first job at an advertising agency, where I met my wife, Kathy.  We just celebrated our 51st wedding anniversary, and have two children, Kevin & Mika.  I find great enjoyment in our six grandchildren’s sports activities, band & choir concerts, plays, etc.  Since Kathy and I were restricted from working at the same firm, I moved to Northwestern National Bank of Minneapolis.  After 21 years, I started a new career at Allison-Williams Company, sold tax-free municipal bonds to individuals and institutions for ten years, then moved to Smith-Barney and worked as a broker for 19 years. My goal was to work for 50 years in downtown Minneapolis:  I did 49!  After my stroke on October 15th, 2007, I decided to retire on May 1, 2008.  

After retirement, I decided to apply to volunteer at Children’s Hospital.  I always worked toward goals in my career, and am continuing to do so as a volunteer.  I have 365 hours as a volunteer here thus far; my current goal is 400 hours by the end of 2012.  My next goal will be 500 hours, to be completed in 2013.

I enjoy being a volunteer:  the interaction with nursing staff, helping children, and allowing families to have a break.  I feel privileged to work with the staff in the volunteer office.  It’s a special honor to volunteer.”

Thank you, Tom, for your wonderful volunteer work here at Children’s!  WE are honored to have you on our team!