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Volunteers & Interns: the Heart and Soul of Arts For Life

April 27, 2016 | By Rachel Zink

by Annie Rogers, Arts For Life Program Director at Mission Children’s Hospital

It is a Wednesday afternoon, and I am sitting at the Zeis Clinic art table at Mission Children’s hospital, waiting on the next patient. I hear the chime of the elevator as the door opens, and a little voice echos in the quiet of the waiting room: “I hope the art lady’s here!”

A girl of maybe 4 or 5 rounds the corner, eyes widening as they scan the row of hanging art lesson examples. But as soon as her gaze lands on me, she grips her Mom’s hand, the smile fading from her lips. “Hi!” I say, but at the sound of my voice, she turns and buries her face in the side of her mom’s leg.

“My name’s Annie,” I say, with my warmest smile, “and I do art here. Do you want to make some art with me?” She looks at me from the sides of her eyes, and tugs on the hem of her mom’s shirt. Her mom leans down, listens to the urgent whisper, then looks at me and smiles: “She wants to know if Ms. Cara is here.”

Cara is the wonderful, amazing, irreplaceable, volunteer teacher who teaches at this art table every Wednesday afternoon.  Every Wednesday of course, except this one; she is traveling on this day, and I am covering her shift.

And even though I have been the art lady at this table for many years, clearly, for this patient, Ms. Cara has been – is – the one and only art lady.

Honestly, nothing could make me happier.

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Arts For Life Charlotte Volunteer, Jennie, with Whitney

Arts For Life began 15 years ago with one passionate teacher, a few eager students, and dozen donated cameras. In the years since, we’ve been able to bring educational visual art, creative writing, and music lessons to thousands and thousands of pediatric patients and their families – more every year!  And that growth, that change in scope, would be absolutely impossible without the dedication and commitment of our compassionate, creative volunteers.

There are 69 active volunteers and interns who have clocked in for teaching shifts at our hospitals across the state just this week. Here in our Asheville chapter alone, volunteer teachers donated over 2,700 hours of art lessons to our community’s sickest kids in 2015. If you lined out all those hours consecutively, it would add up to almost four months straight of teaching, 24 hours a day, night and day. That’s one third of a whole year!

And that doesn’t even include the hundreds of hours our community advocates in Asheville, Charlotte, Durham, and Winston have spent prepping, cutting, stuffing, typing, speaking, planning, and organizing projects outside of the hospital for Arts For Life.

Just as Cara is “the art lady” to the young patient I met that Wednesday in the Zeis Clinic, so too, is Gil somebody’s “art guy” (art dude? art gentleman?) at our Olson Huff Center art table.  Laura is some lucky kid’s art lady in Charlotte at Levine Children’s Hospital… and in Durham, Carol at Duke Children’s Hospital… and Fran in Winston Salem at Brenner Children’s Hospital… and so on, 64 more times.  There is no way that we, as staff members could ever be “the art teacher” to as many kids our program reaches now. So you see, when a volunteer or intern is a kid’s one and only, not only does it make us happy, but it makes Arts For Life’s circle wider, our impact greater, our service more valuable.

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Arts For Life Durham Volunteer, Carol, with Nora.

This month, in each of our chapters, we are making a point to say THANK YOU to our volunteers. Thank you for your service, for your dedication, for the time and energy you willingly donate each week to improving the healthcare experiences of hundreds of families and thousands of children in North Carolina. To say that our organization wouldn’t be here without you is the understatement of the decade—Arts For Life is you, and you are Arts For Life.

Thank you, amazing volunteers and interns, for being our art ladies and gentlemen.

Volunteers and Interns at Arts For Life – Mission Children’s Hospital in Asheville: Valerie Altman, Ana Blanton, Gil Calderwood, Cat Christianson, Carol Duin, Linda Furcello, Virginia Gourley, Patty Grandys, Cyndi Gruber, Janna Hargadon, Amanda King, Julie Lee, Courtney McDaniel, Madelyn Silcox, Mimi Shackleford, Jerri Smith, Cara Steinbuchel, Heather Styles, Taylor Stone, Lindsey Taylor

Volunteers and Interns at Arts For Life – Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte: Emily Bast, Zuleyma Castrejon, Laura Funderburg, Liz Gore, Janet Hunt, Alicia Ide, Michelle Levi, Abby Lippincott, Isabel McClain, Louise Nezelek, Jennie Winston, Rebecca Yang

Volunteers and Interns at Arts For Life – Duke Children’s Hospital in Durham: Suzanne Allen, Lindsey Arata, Wilson Brace, Margaret Carlson, Catherine Cheney, Jen Davis, Claudio Kriegel, Lara Liszka, Carol Mitchell, Danielle Richer, Jessica Williford

Volunteers and Interns at Arts For Life – Brenner Children’s Hospital in Winston-Salem: Christi Barnes, John Beck, Sam Boyce, Kendra Bragg, Jen Brown, Cami Burruss, Lauren Duncan, Danny Ekstrand, Fred Fuller, Sammie Goodwin, Martha Griffith, Carrie Hamilton, Christine Hargraves, Jennifer Herbst, Taylor Jennings, Margot Jerome, Kate Juras, Garrett Kim, Meg Miles,  Mary Morel, Haley Overby, Bethany Pan, Caroline Paul, Brooke Porter, Kaprea’ Reid, Anna Rohr, Maddie Stambaugh, Fran Seehausen, Katharyn Valier, Elizabeth Wineinger