The volunteer services team at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has implemented a virtual program for local teens to give back and support patients at Children’s.
The VolunTEEN program is an annual, 8-week opportunity for teenagers ages 15 to 18 to serve in different areas of our hospitals. In response to COVID-19, Children’s invited over 50 returning VolunTEENs to participate in the brand new, virtual curriculum, designed to ensure kids still feel like kids and remain entertained in a time of visitor restrictions and reduced group activities.
“Our hope is that the VolunTEENs’ optimistic attitudes are felt throughout the hallways, even with visitor restrictions in place,” Volunteer Coordinator at Children’s at Egleston Katherine Medlock said.
Through assembling craft kits, virtually reading to patients, hosting donation drives, writing jokes and uplifting patients and staff with thoughtful signs, there is no shortage of ways these teens continue to make an impact.
Alexis Perkins understands the value of the program firsthand. Six years ago, Perkins volunteered at Children’s as part of the VolunTEEN program. Her experience shadowing a nurse solidified her goal of pursuing a career in pediatric health care. Recently, Perkins’ journey with Children’s came full circle when she started her position as a clinical nurse in the emergency department at Hughes Spalding — the very department and location that inspired her as a volunteer.
“The nurses were laughing and smiling together, and it was so apparent they genuinely loved their jobs and co-workers,” Perkins said. “It didn’t matter what position they were in; everyone was treated like family.”
Medlock said when she first realized the in-house volunteer program was no longer an option, she was apprehensive to transition to a virtual program. She was unsure how many students would want to volunteer and how to create the best experience and environment for the teens and patients.
“The most rewarding part of running the Virtual VolunTEEN Program has been the engagement levels,” Medlock said. “The response I have received from all parties has been overwhelming. I am proud of my team for pivoting and making the most of these unprecedented circumstances this summer and creating a program that has benefited so many. I am even more proud of our teens who have displayed their unconditional dedication to serving our patients and families at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Their response has been inspiring to our whole team to continue the work we do daily!”