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ASU students volunteer at children's hospice

New club recruits volunteers for hospice center


ASU students volunteer at children's hospice

New club recruits volunteers for hospice center

Voices raised in song. Splashes in a pool. Wheelchair races down the hallways. Rooms full of laughter. You would never know from first glance, but Ryan House in Downtown Phoenix is a respite center, dedicated to giving quality end-of-life care to children. 

Incorporated in 2004, Ryan House was a home for over 276 children in need of hospice care in the 2016 fiscal year alone. 

Now, Ryan House is partnering with Arizona State University students with the hope of increasing the number of volunteers. 

Debuting just in time for the spring semester, Ryan House at ASU Downtown was created to further that mission.

“The main thing we want to accomplish is to provide volunteer hours to Ryan House,” says club president Max Bartolomea, a junior in medical studies. “We knew we needed more volunteers, and we thought that students would be the best place to go.”

With 57 members and 36  volunteers already on board, the club is expected to accumulate at least 7,500 volunteer hours by the end of 2018. Bartolomea attributes the club’s formation to being in the right place at the right time and credits the vice president of the club, junior biochemistry major Dustin Parsons, with the original idea.

“My friend Dustin ... was the personal trainer for one of the leaders at Ryan House.” Bartolomea says. “They were talking about doing a partnership with ASU to try and increase volunteerism. He came to me with the idea.”

Bartolomea has had a working relationship with Ryan House for two years and has spent time building relationships with patients through his volunteer work. Both he and Parsons will be receiving The Ryan House Courage Award this March for their work with the organization. 

Established this year, the award is given out to a member or group from the Ryan House community, whether they be a volunteer, staff member, patient or family member, for courageous action. 

Marghan Miller, an Individual Giving Officer with Ryan House, is excited for both Bartolomea and Parsons to be honored with the award and is looking forward to the continued expansion of their partnership with ASU. 

“The partnership is wonderful because I think it’s really important to instill philanthropic giving back to the younger generation, and volunteers from Ryan House allow us to keep our budget really lean and neat,” Miller says. “We are 100 percent community funded. We get no insurance reimbursement and no family ever pays for our services, so our volunteers really allow us the ability to keep our expenses down really low.”

Club leadership Emily Keidel, Max Bartolomea, Dustin Parsons and Slyvia Johnson pose at Ryan House in the Sensory Room in Jan. 2018.

Miller also says that volunteering is a great way for students to open their eyes and give back to those who might not be as blessed as they are. 

Ryan House volunteers report to staff members who place them where the most need is. Whether that is playing board games, singing or refereeing wheelchair races, volunteers spend time bonding with young patients and creating lasting relationships. 

Students looking to giving back with Ryan House at ASU Downtown have two different types of volunteer options. 

“Generally, at Ryan House they want people to come in four hours a week on a weekly basis,” Bartolomea says. “We understand that with students sometimes that can be a little bit rough. Right now, our 36 volunteers have signed up to do these weekly shifts, but we are also offering sporadic ones where we will come in monthly.”

Those looking for an easy way to get involved can contact the club about volunteering once a month at parties and at other large events Ryan House hosts for its patients. For those looking to volunteer more regularly, training sessions are hosted by the club on a semi-regular basis. Ryan House at ASU Downtown is open to students from all majors, so long as they are 18 or older. 

Students in need of clinical training can also earn hours through their volunteer work with Ryan House. For students like Emily Keidel, a second year medical studies major and treasurer of the club, the basic training is completely worthwhile. 

“Ryan House is especially unique because it is a truly one-of-a-kind place for parents to take their kids and for kids to go to get the respite hospice care that they need that they can’t get anywhere else,” Keidel says. “I am looking forward to just interacting with the kids and getting to know their personalities. I’ve worked with kids before and I just love interacting with them ... and helping them feel welcome and comfortable at Ryan House as their home away from home.”

The heart of the club comes from the passion of its members. 

“The whole place, I just love it so much,” Bartolomea says. “It has such a great vibe and a great atmosphere. Just being there has inspired me to want to help more, do more and make it even better than it already is.”

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