By GENE PATTERSON
6 News Anchor/Reporter
KNOXVILLE (WATE) - For the next two months, East Tennessee Children's Hospital will host hundreds of teenagers from around the region.
These young volunteers will spend time in a dozen hospital departments, helping in any way possible.
The 154 teens from 38 area high schools were handpicked by the hospital after a rigorous screening process.
This summer, the volunteers will spend their time assisting the nurses, delivering flowers, playing games with the patients, and dozens of other duties.
"This is my second year here and I've
really enjoyed it. Not so much for the hours, but I just love hanging out with
the kids. I love volunteering. I always have," said teen volunteer Jared Davis.
All the volunteers share that love of helping others and working with the patients. But it's not always easy.
"You have to work for it. They don't know you. You're a stranger. You just have to put on a big smile and hope they connected with you like you're trying to connect with them," Davis said.
Kaleigh Malkes, 17, has made many connections. She's been a regular fixture at Children's for the past four years and hopes one day to work with at risk babies.
She says early on, she was given a tour of the hospital and introduced to babies born drug addicted or prematurely. It affected her deeply.
"I got to go up there at a young
age and fell in love with those babies. I want to help. I just want to do
something to make a difference," Malkes said.
Kaleigh may follow in the footsteps of other past volunteers who've turned their passion for children into a career, like Casey Owens.
Casey is wrapping up her nursing degree at Tennessee Tech and is interning at Children's. She was a volunteer, too.
"I was here every summer since I was fourteen, until I went to college," said Owens. "I knew I wanted to work here one day, so that was my goal."
This summer, some of these yellow shirts may also set a similar goal. For sure, each will touch the lives of many children in positive ways. But who will get the most out of it?
"I hate to say this, but I think I do, because the kids kind of change you," Malkes said.
"You feel bad for them, but they have the best spirit and so it's like, wow, it really doesn't have to be that bad. You can make the best of any situation."
So we salute these young volunteers for showing us the true Spirit of East Tennessee.
If you know someone who you believe is an example of the Spirit of East Tennessee, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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