Category Archives: Volunteer Profiles

Choosing Children’s: Kate Hanley

Kate and family, enjoying an afternoon adventure


A tick bite — that’s what started Kate’s relationship with Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

In a time of uncertainly, Kate relied on the staff at Children’s to provide care for her son, and answers related to his illness. Her positive experience led her to later giving her time to our organization and those that matter most: the kids and families.

“I was 12-years old and still playing in little league softball when I coached my first team full of second-graders! Kids are very present; very in the moment. They’re rarely afraid to tell you what’s on their mind and they see things with an openness and honesty that people tend to lose with age. Anything is possible with children because they are full of magic and they keep us growing! Fast forward a couple decades and I am married with three school-aged kids of my own. I spend my time with my kids, volunteering, playing guitar, singing, dancing, reading, writing and being with my large family. Oh! And eating! I LOVE eating all the good food the Twin Cities has to offer!

The summer we moved to the Cities our son was bit by a tick and contracted Lyme’s Disease. When we took him to Children’s in Minneapolis we still didn’t know what was wrong, but the staff was very attentive and took good care of our boy. There was a Child Life Specialist who came to see us all before his surgery and she did a great job of preparing our son, and his siblings for what lay ahead. It was so unexpected and comforting to have someone there to focus purely on us in our time of uncertainty. A few years later I had some time to volunteer and thought first of Children’s Hospital. I love being able to help parents and their kids in times of distress because I believe they need extra care and attention.

One of my favorite memories while volunteering at Children’s was the night I visited with a teenager who had been sidelined from playing hockey. She couldn’t do any big physical activity and was very down-hearted. So I took her down to a family room to play some hockey of our own. We grabbed some 12-inch mini souvenir hockey sticks she had in her room, some Starburst candies and some styrofoam cups from the lounge and went head to head shooting it out. We had a blast with our make-shift game of “kneeling hockey”, and I even made her laugh with my terrible slap-shot. She was happy to be playing again and I was happy to be a part of her healing.”

Red-Vested Rockstar: Huechee Yang

Huechee YangMeet Huechee!

Why he rocks?! “What got me into volunteering was actually my parents. They thought that I needed to gain learning experiences and try new things. I was unsure at first, but I got used to it and knew that I was helping someone which felt pretty good. Something fun that I like to do is play with my little brothers from time to time.”

What is your favorite thing to do outside of volunteering? “My favorite thing to do outside of volunteering is to practice new things. For example, sometimes I play the piano because it is fun and it is something different from what I usually do.”

Do you have any pets of kids of your own? “I used to have a pet hamster, but at the moment I do not have any pets.”

If you could create a new candy bar, what would be in it and what would you name it? “If I could create a new candy bar, the inside of it would be something great like fruits. The name of the candy bar would be ‘Good One’.”

Share a favorite volunteer experience or story “Whenever I get to hang out with the patients and connect with them makes for a favorite experience.”

Red-Vested Rockstar: Keziah Lawson

Keziah LawsonWhy she ROCKS?! “I am the oldest of five children. Because of this, I have always been comfortable around infants and kids. I had been to Children’s once when younger for pneumonia, and remember it as a positive experience and was familiar with their good reputation. About a year and a half ago an acquaintance of mine mentioned volunteering at Children’s hospital to me. Being that I want to go into nursing and enjoy kids, this sounded like a great opportunity! I looked into it, and loved how many opportunities they had.”

Favorite thing to do outside of volunteering? “Outside of volunteering I love to run. My favorite race is Ragnar, a two hundred mile relay race. I love that when I run it is just me and the road, no other distractions. This year I am running the Warrior Dash and am very excited.”

Do you have any kids or pets of your own? “I have two dogs; one is a black Chihuahua, Pomeranian mix named Violet, and the other is a Sheltie named Annabel. Violet is very timid and will often sit and “cry” to be held.  Annabel is an older dog so she spends a lot of time sleeping. I like to take my dogs for walks with my brothers and sisters.”

If you could create a new candy bar, what would be in it and what would you name it? ” It would be s’mores flavored, as s’mores are my favorite dessert! It would have marshmallows and graham crackers in the middle and then be dipped in chocolate. I am not sure what I would call it but I am sure that it would be very tasty!”

Share a favorite volunteer experience or story “My favorite volunteer experience happened a couple weeks ago. We had an event at St. Paul with Wild player, Ryan Carter. The press came and it was a huge deal. After the program, the children and their families got to get his signature and talk to him. It was so sweet to watch these children who are going through a really hard time, have so much excitement about meeting one of their role models. The parents were so thankful for the time that was put into organizing the event. It was one of those times when I got to see the impact Children’s hospital has on these patients and it was really neat to be a part of.”

Choosing Children’s: Joyce Sidman

Joyce Sidman-square

Tell us about yourself: “I am a children’s book author and teacher. I spend my days trying to capture, in words, the stories of what goes on around us. And when I visit schools to teach writing residencies, I try to encourage children to do the same: to put a little part of themselves in words.”

“My main passions are words, books, and the outdoors. I was always writing or drawing as a child, using words or pictures to help me understand and celebrate the world. My career has been in children’s literature, mostly poetry books about the natural world. I also love photography. A good day for me is: wake up early, wander around outside and photograph the little creatures I find in my gardens, then go to my desk and write. Or: a day of teaching in a classroom of kids who are a having fun experimenting with words.

I’ve been lucky enough to have a few of my books recognized with major awards. That means I get to travel to national conferences, give presentations and meet authors, teachers, and librarians from all over the country. It can be very thrilling! But at heart, I am a homebody. I am happiest when I have a good idea percolating in my imagination, and the time to write it down.”

 What led you to volunteer at Children’s? “When my two sons were young, I volunteered in their schools. But eventually they grew up (darn them!), so I looked for some other way to contribute. Even though I am not in medicine, the field fascinates me. My husband would come home every day with stories from Children’s, and I thought: I’d love to know what it’s really like there. So I made the plunge, gravitating toward the library because I know books. That was almost fifteen years ago, and I’ve never looked back.”

 “Working in the library is a wonderful mix of visiting with kids (and parents) and handling books. I love trundling the big library wagon around the floors and seeing kids’ faces light up when we have just the right book for them. I enjoy chatting with their parents, and helping them relax for a moment in their stressful day. I love working with the staff in the Family Resource Center and watching the kids in Sibling Play while I’m shelving books. Working at Children’s takes me out of my quiet writing world and into a rich community of people helping other people.”

Red-Vested Rockstar: Ron Coleman

Ron Coleman

Why he rocks! “I got into volunteering shortly after moving to Minnesota from California. I was retired, and could not find my bearings during the long winter months, so I started volunteering. I found that helping others, helped me.”

Favorite thing to do outside of volunteering? “golfing and gardening are my passions. I love being outdoors, digging in the dirt, whether it’s golfing :) or gardening.”

Do you have any kids or pets of your own? “I have four kids and five grandkids, all on the east coast. I also have a cocker spaniel named Jazz.”

If you could create a new candy bar, what would be in it and what would you name it? “My candy bar would be named ‘nuts about you’. It would consist of walnuts, pecans, cranberries and pure dark chocolate bits. No sugar added!

Share a favorite volunteer experience or story: “My favorite volunteer experience is always the same. I love to see the kids laugh and smile.”

Red-Vested Rockstar: Senna El Bakri

Senna El Bakri

Meet Senna!

Why she ROCKS?! “I have always loved working with children. I enjoy seeing their imagination and creativity in action. I also love having the opportunity to get a little goofy with them and join in on their fun. I am a graduated nursing student with an interest in pediatrics and I understand that the mental well being of the child in the hospital plays a big role in helping them get better. Knowing that I am helping these children forget about the IV lines and the monitors for a few hours and just focus on being a kid is incredibly rewarding.”

Favorite thing to do outside of volunteering? “In my free time I love to be on horse back. Riding horses is not only a hobby for me but it is also very therapeutic, I absolutely love it.”

Do you have any kids or pets of your own? “I do not have any kids but my family has a cat that my father rescued.”

If you could create a new candy bar, what would be in it and what would you name it? “My candy bar would have salted caramel and real raspberries in it. I would call it the “Northeaster” because I was born and raised in Northeast Minneapolis and we had some raspberry bushes in our backyard.”

Share a favorite volunteer experience or story “I had a lot of fun with a boy who was very excited to tell me all about the movie “The Avengers”. When he was done he insisted on making me some hot cocoa then asked if I could give him a foot massage. It was incredibly cute coming from such a young boy.”

Choosing Children’s: Tom Hayden

Tom HaydenNicole Louise Hayden was born on May 25th, 1973 to proud parents Tom & Kathy Hayden; 5 pounds, 3 ounces and a full head of dark hair. The youngest of three children, her life was sure to be filled with love and adventure. Unfortunately, her time on this earth was much shorter than planned; Nicole passed away on May 27th, 1973 due to hyaline membrane disease caused by her prematurity.

Proud she would be of the incredibly generous heart of her father, Tom Hayden. Tom, or ‘Grandpa Tom’ as known to many staff members, is a kind and dedicated man and volunteer. He began his service at the hospital soon after his retirement in 2008, and has given over 830 hours to date.

With grown children, six growing grandchildren, and ‘a soft spot in his heart for kids’, according to Tom, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota seemed the most natural place to offer his time.  Soon after starting at Children’s, Tom found his place as the baby holder and comforter. He has a true gift for helping little ones settle, rest, and ultimately heal. No matter if a baby is two days or two months old, Tom provides that comforting touch, allowing little ones to do what babies do best: coo, smile, and rest!

Tom ends his weekly shift in our (Volunteer Services) office offering a brief overview of his day. The number of babies he held, the breaks he was able to provide to parents, etc. I ask him each week how his shift went, and he always replies ‘just the best’. Well Tom, we think YOU are just the best. Children’s is grateful for your service, and we look forward to your 1,000 volunteer hour landmark!

Red-Vested Rockstar: Joe Scovronski

Joe Scovronski

Meet Joe!

Why he ROCKS?! “I love working with kids.  After talking to some friends at Children’s and hearing about all the fun opportunities to serve kids & families, I found the online application an easy first step into getting involved.  I’m an architect at Target Corporation, designing stores by day and volunteering with my church’s children’s ministry/Big Brothers Big Sisters by night!  I love being outdoors & exploring the local arts and music scenes.”

Favorite thing to do outside of volunteering? “Fishing:  I can’t wait for the upcoming Walleye opener. I go with a group of friends to Leech Lake and Winnibigoshish way Up North. I also am in an amateur bass fishing league through the summer…a little competition is good!”

Do you have any kids or pets of your own? “I have a son, Samuel. He graduated from UW-Madison with a Mechanical Engineering degree last summer and works in Columbia, MO now. I started helping in children’s ministry at church with his 2nd grade boys’ class, and have kept volunteering with kids ever since.”

If you could create a new candy bar, what would be in it and what would you name it? “This would be one area that I’d contribute to without kids in mind: I’m a home-brewer, so I’d love to create a chocolate stout candy bar or something along those lines using some of my beers in the mix.  I’d call it Chocolate Barrel.”

Share a favorite volunteer experience or story: “My fondest memory was during book-cart rounds maybe 4-weeks after I had started: I rounded a corner, and a young girl was waiting with anticipation near her door for her books. She started jumping up and down when she saw the full book-cart, and had a huge smile as she made her choices. She chose 5 books including some early-readers. I asked how she was doing at her reading and she proceeded to show me! I told her she was a good reader, and that she could get some more books the next day. She smiled, sat down on her bed and continued refining her skills at sounding out the words. The best part of the experience was that the books helped her to focus on something positive and happy during her stay at Children’s.”

“I always wanted to have a daughter in addition to my son, but it wasn’t to be. Some of my favorite times are at church with the three-year-old girls. They jump up and down enthusiastically when they see me upon arriving to class, and they all want to tell me their stories about the week’s happenings. We sit and read books and do puzzles…anything that encourages a little one-on-one time to show them how special they are is a precious time for me. So I guess I have lots of daughters now…for a little time each week.”

Thank you for all you do Joe!

Red-Vested Rockstar: Irma Lain

Irma Lain

Meet Irma!

Why she ROCKS?! “I grew up in a home of nine kids, and my mom cared for babies and toddlers in our home for many years.  Somewhere along the way, I gained a great love for little ones, especially babies!  About 9 years ago, I heard my co-worker talk about volunteering in the Children’s NICU and thought it would be something that I would enjoy doing.  She gave me the website application link, and I went from there.  I have been fortunate enough to have work managers all of these years who have allowed me to leave early on Fridays so that I can volunteer!”

Favorite thing to do outside of volunteering? “I love spending time with friends – going out to eat, going for walks, watching movies, etc.”

What keeps you here, volunteering at Children’s? “I love having the opportunity to comfort growing babies and seem to be good at it.”

If you could create a new candy bar, what would be in it and what would you name it? “My candy bar would have chocolate, caramel and peanuts.  I would name it ‘Chocolate Delight’.”

Share a favorite volunteer experience or story: “On a recent shift, I was asked to help a patient in the PICU. I was told that he typically loved to snuggle and be held, but that was not the case the day I visited. He wanted some physical space, so he laid back in bed and I simply read and talked to him for about 40 minutes, when he drifted to sleep (which I had been told that he had been fighting all day).  He was very responsive to me and my voice. It made me feel good to be able to help him relax and rest.”

Thank you for the YEARS of snuggles, and cuddles for our babies!