by Joely Ross
I’ll start by saying that there was one point in my life that I told people that I was going to be a volunteer when I grew up. Having been raised in a household where service was an integral part of our daily schedule, I was hooked. I began my career on just this path, by serving as an AmeriCorps*VISTA for two years after college. I now live out that dream through the AmeriCorps program that I manage. With my own professional endeavors and the recent growth of our young family, I’ve watched my volunteer vigor quickly dissolve with little time and energy to spare. A year ago, shortly after the birth of our second child, I had resigned myself to the thought that it would be a very long time before I would be able to volunteer again. It was difficult enough to find the time to manage a household, work, and care for our two daughters. It was around this same time that my husband became a Shriner after having received services from Shriners Hospital for Children for our daughter Madison (now 4 years old) who was born with hip dysplasia.
My husband, a stay-at-home dad, learned about how Shriners collects can tabs to support the hospitals. He spent his days creating a vast network of community businesses, schools, and friends and coined the Can Tabs for Kids program of Kora Shriners with a fellow Noble. In a matter of 9 months, my husband and daughter and their community network had collected over 100 gallons of can tabs. One night Madison even shared with us that “Can Tabs are a little thing than can make a BIG difference!” What an amazing learning experience for a child so young!
Despite Madison’s previous surgery and bracing, her hip has not grown as it should. She will have surgery again in July to create a stronger hip socket. This procedure will once again require a body cast for 2 months. This may or may not be her last surgery, but the Shriners Hospitals will provide care for her and monitor her situation until she is at least 21 years of age, all at no cost to our family. To read about Madison’s first surgery, view the photo book we created.
Fueled by the community support for the Can Tabs for Kids Program, our family knew only one thing to do when we heard that our daughter Madison would need another hip surgery. Instead of dwelling on the ‘what-ifs’ of surgery on a 4 year-old and the negative aspects of this news, we decided to throw a celebration of sorts to raise awareness and support of Shriners Hospitals for Children. We named the Benefit Dinner and Auction Courage to Care after Madison’s inspiring transformation as she courageously faced surgery and, in turn, gave back in appreciation for all that she had received. Our Courage to Care efforts have raised over $5100 to date!
As a parent, the experience of watching my child learn about volunteering and community has been an inspiring journey. This journey has renewed our family’s passion for service to the community and transformed the lives of those around us. Although our family created our own service projects around our family’s personal experience with Shriners, this experience often has me reflecting on the role of the family in the volunteer sector and how absent it can be without a little creativity on the part of volunteer managers. There are many eager families out there willing and able to help, but might be like me where my volunteer availability consists of 9pm to 11pm from my couch or 4pm to 8pm with two kids in tow. Being open to the possibilities of a volunteer serving from home on off hours or serving with children introduces amazing new opportunities for both the organization and the family.
In my continued commitment to raise my child in a community of care and support, our family invites you, the community, to join us through Madison’s Courage to Care blog as we take the next steps in our hip dysplasia journey.
About Shriners Hospital for Children
Shriners Hospitals for Children® is changing lives every day through innovative pediatric specialty care, world-class research and outstanding medical education. The 22 hospitals in the United States, Canada and Mexico provide advanced care for children with orthopaedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate. Shriners Hospitals for Children is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and relies on the generosity of donors.
Joely Ross is an AmeriCorps Program Manager with Goodwill Industries of Northern New England. She is an AmeriCorps*VISTA Alum who lives in the greater Portland area with her husband and two daughters.