KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Remarkable Woman finalist Cheryl Allmon has a heart for children.
The director of volunteer services and programs at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital makes it more than a job. It’s a calling that began when her child was seriously ill and received treatment at the hospital several years ago.
She makes a difference in the lives of sick children every day.
Being in the hospital can be scary for little ones like baby Willow. It’s not easy for mom, either.
“It’s been a long couple months but we’re moving forward,” Willow’s mom said as they waited for an appointment with Allmon.
“OK, so I have the cutest picture in the world,” Allmon said, showing a picture of Willow that was on a cardboard cutout at a UT football game. The cutout helped fill the seats during COVID-19.
“So that’s hers to keep,” Allmon said as she hands the cutout to the family.
“Oh, I love it! Oh, that’s going in her room!” Willow’s mom said.
At her job, Cheryl comes up with all kinds of creative ways to help kids and families. It’s more than a job.
“I found a picture of the reason that I work here,” she said, holding up a picture of her son.
Back in 2001, Cheryl’s son Brett was in and out of Children’s Hospital with severe gastrointestinal problems. Thankfully, he recovered after three years of treatment and is now a healthy 25-year-old.
“It was on the other side of that, we got up to go to church one morning and there was an ad in the paper for a part-time volunteer coordinator. I thought, ‘that’s me,'” she said. “That was 15 years ago.”
During those 15 years, Cheryl has walked practically every inch of the hospital. Finding a need and filling it — like the family food pantry.
“Simple little things like Chex mix, cheese crackers, peanut butter crackers go a long way,” she said.
Cheryl developed the infant cuddler program for babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.
“They needed to be comforted, they needed to be loved. Just calmed down, which is something you don’t have to have a medical degree to do.”
Cheryl also heads up the Tiny Trees Program, which brings beautifully decorated Christmas trees for patients at Christmas, donated by the community.
“When mom sees that tree and it lights up and there are tears because you went that extra mile for their child and their family …” Cheryl pauses, “man, that’s the best.”
Cheryl came up with the idea of offering game day parking before the COVID-19 pandemic, raising $70,000 for the hospital.
“It makes people happy … to pay to park when you know it’s going to Children’s Hospital,” she said. “It’s 100 percent profit.”
Volunteer Ted Hinkel has many positive things to say about his co-worker.
“That is her spirit, just to immediately jump out,” Hinkel said. “I’ll go get you. Sure. I’ll help you out. I’ll help you move. Whatever you want to do. And it’s just the immediate nature that’s ingrained in her. I don’t see in any other people. I really don’t.”
Cheryl has had an impact on so many, from the smallest patients like Willow to 14-year-old Randy Inman.
“Cheryl… you are a wonderful person and I love you.” Inman said.
Thank you, Cheryl Allmon for makikng it all just a little less scary and sharing your heart with those who need it.
“I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else,” Cheryl said.