Teens use summer vacation to volunteer at East Tennessee Childre

Teens use summer vacation to volunteer at East Tennessee Children's Hospital

Posted:
Some East Tennessee teenagers are taking time out of their summer vacation to give back to their community. Some East Tennessee teenagers are taking time out of their summer vacation to give back to their community.
They are taking part in the VolunTeens program at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, volunteering their time to make sick children's lives a little brighter this summer. They are taking part in the VolunTeens program at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, volunteering their time to make sick children's lives a little brighter this summer.
Besides patient interaction, the teens can also volunteer in many other areas of the hospital, including the information desk, gift shop, surgery lounger or kitchen. Besides patient interaction, the teens can also volunteer in many other areas of the hospital, including the information desk, gift shop, surgery lounger or kitchen.
By HAYLEY HARMON
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Some East Tennessee teenagers are taking time out of their summer vacation to give back to their community.

They are taking part in the VolunTeens program at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, volunteering their time to make sick children's lives a little brighter this summer.

The 154 teenagers are each volunteering two weeks of their summer to help out at the hospital.

The 14 to 18 year olds, working in shifts between now and August, are from 34 different high schools across ten East Tennessee counties.

"These kids have a lot of choices. They could be at the pool today, or could be hanging out with their friends at the movie, but they choose to be here,” said Cheryl Allmon, Director of Volunteer Services and Programs at ETCH. "They blend in and just change everything for patients.”

Ninety-five percent of what the VolunTeens do is patients contact, simply interacting with the young patients.

"It's always fun seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces whenever they have all these kids come in. Like when the volunteers come in, they're so happy because they have someone to play with,” said volunteer Khushbu Patel, 18, a recent graduate of Gatlinburg Pittman High School in Sevier County.

The play time is a much needed reprieve for the patients from the seriousness of a hospital stay.

"Something that takes their mind off something maybe that's hurting them or that they're afraid. It takes their mind off of that, when they have somebody who is there and will play,” said Allmon.

The VolunTeens interact with the children in one of ETCH’s Child Life play rooms or do individual room to room visits.

"I've got one young lady, I found her sitting in a room singing. She's got a beautiful voice and I found her sitting in a room just singing with a patient,” said Allmon.

They see what each child individually needs to be more comfortable and relaxed.

"Yesterday I was with someone and we got to play video games, and it completely took his mind off of everything, like when the nurses were coming in and out,” said Lindy Harlow, 16, a junior at Knoxville’s Bearden High School.

Allmon says the help from the teen volunteers is invaluable, but the teens tell us it’s equally as valuable to them.

"It's an amazing experience,” said Patel.

Allmon believes the program helps spur many of these teenagers on to a career in the medical field.

"As you walk around here, you'll see employees who started in our VolunTeen program. I could show you on just about every floor. They come here and that passion is ignited,” said Allmon.

Besides patient interaction, the teens can also volunteer in many other areas of the hospital, including the information desk, gift shop, surgery lounger or kitchen.

Students apply months in advance to be part of the VolunTeens program

For more information, visit East Tennessee Children’s Hospital’s website.

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