“The heart of a volunteer is never measured in size, but by the depth of the commitment to make a difference in the lives of others.” – DeAnn Hollis

At enCourage Kids Foundation, we are extremely grateful to have a group of volunteers who are committed to making a significant impact in the lives of children facing medical challenges. From volunteering at events to taking time out of their busy workday to put together treat bags to spending a weekend at camp to facilitate activities just to see them smile, they truly go above and beyond to work towards a world where every child—regardless of the difficulty of his or her medical journey—experiences joy, hope, resilience, and healing.

To our incredible volunteers, THANK YOU for all of your continued hard work and dedication to the sick children and families that we serve at enCourage Kids. We could not do it without you!

In honor of International Volunteer Day, we wanted to share with you how our volunteers brighten the lives of children with a few stories below.

To sign up or for more information, please visit encourage-kids.org/volunteers or contact Briana at Briana@encourage-kids.org or 212-354-2878.

Meet Angelae

Angelae has been a volunteer with enCourage Kids for over 20 years.  She is constantly relocating for work; however, she makes it her priority to attend events even if that requires her to fly in for only 24 hours! 

What makes you so passionate about our mission?

From the amazing, wonderful staff to the volunteers, to the children and their families, of course. It fills my heart with pure and utter joy and happiness. Helping one another and our community is what makes the world go round, isn’t it? And the EKF does an amazing, absolutely amazing, job of making each and every child and their family feel special…as they are. It is my pleasure and my honor to be a volunteer with the enCourage Kids Foundation.

What is your favorite event/memory from volunteering with enCourage Kids?

I enjoy the look on the faces of the children and families. It is priceless and is one of the most meaningful and rewarding experiences in my life. Every moment is a treasure and a favorite but camping at Camp Pontiac is one I always look forward to. Seeing the families’ faces and witnessing them enjoying every moment, I can’t stop smiling and it means so much to me to be even a little part of helping make that happen.

From Volunteer to President & CEO: Meet Michele

Our President & CEO, Michele Hall-Duncan, started out at enCourage Kids as a volunteer. After volunteering for four years, the company she was working at got taken over by another company and she lost her job. They gave her opportunity to move to Dallas or take the severance package and stay in New York City. Not wanting to leave the city, she chose the latter option. Right around that time, a young lady at the foundation was about to go on maternity leave. Leadership asked if Michele was willing to take over her job for three months, and she said sure. It would be a great opportunity for her to look for another job. That was 23 years ago. Since then, Michele has held many roles at enCourage Kids as she passionately works to make hospitals a better place to get better. If you would like to hear more about Michele’s story, you can watch her interview on The Donna Drake Show.

Meet Walter

Walter has been volunteering with enCourage Kids for over 10 years now. He first volunteered with an honor society during his freshmen year of college and has been volunteering ever since. We can always find Walter joyfully skipping around our events making sure everyone is having a wonderful time.

What makes you so passionate about the mission?

I’m passionate about the mission because of how happy the kids and families are with enCourage Kid’s work. I can only imagine how difficult it is for families at home. I showed up to camp with a bag that can fit as an overhead carry-on. Many of these families had car trunks full of just medical devices they needed to make it through the weekend. It is just wonderful to be able to give the kids and their families respite from the challenges they face. The joy it brings them is palpable and contagious.

What caused you to stay with enCourage Kids as a volunteer?

The staff was always incredibly kind and respectful to us as volunteers. As the years have passed, there were new faces, but the culture has always endured (and many of the old faces returned). enCourage Kids always makes sure we volunteers are well fed, informed, included, and entrusted with jobs that have a strong and direct impact on the event’s outcome. The staff spends days, weeks, and months preparing, but then trust their volunteers on the day of to help tie it together. The staff also gives us a lot of autonomy and responsibility, but also the perfect amount of guidance, to do our best and get creative.

You can also see how much the staff genuinely cares about the mission every time they speak about it. I have only started to get to know the children, but the staff has all their names and bios memorized, and whenever they do speak of families and kids, their eyes light up and smiles grow wide. As I work with the children more and see how much positivity an experience with enCourage Kids can add to their lives, it’s even easier to see why the staff are as amazing and happy as they are.

What is your favorite memory from volunteering with enCourage Kids?

Oh, definitely the ping pong ball game at Camp Pontiac during Minute to Win It. I have re-watched that video over 100 times. (See video below)

Meet Jody

Jody has been a volunteer with enCourage Kids for over 20 years. She is our go-to musician and we love to watch her perform for our kids and their families. volunteer with enCourage Kids.

What makes you so passionate about our mission?

Bringing smiles to children is the greatest thing and act I could ever do. 

What is your favorite memory from volunteering with enCourage Kids?

There are just so many memories. From meeting the fabulous families to creating lifelong connections. I am an industry professional, so when I have the opportunity to arrange tickets to shows, I am more than happy to do so.

This summer at Camp Pontiac, enCourage kid KE and I started talking about how much he loves The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I was happy to reach out to friends who made it possible for KE to receive merchandise from the show.

Meet Mike

Mike has been volunteering with enCourage Kids for over 20 years. He found out about enCourage Kids Foundation through one of our community partners, LOG-ON, when he was interning there. Mike has volunteered at almost every single one of our events since 1999 and has developed strong and trusting relationships with the families that we serve.

What makes you so passionate about the mission?

My brothers and I were very fortunate to be able to have a fairly healthy and normal childhood and it saddens me so much that others cannot just live carefree and enjoy their youth at times. If donating my time, energy and personality can help brighten their days just even for a little while, I feel like it’s the least I can do. I have loved meeting the kids and their families and some have become like family to me as well over the years.

What is your favorite memory from volunteering with enCourage Kids?

Fundraising is always important and I take pride in working hard at those events to raise as much money as possible to be able to do as much as we can for these families and the hospitals, but all of the events where we get to do fun and exciting things with the kids and their families directly is the most rewarding for me. The first few years of Camp Pontiac I was not able to join due to work obligations, but once I attended and was able to spend an entire weekend with so many kids and their families it changed my life forever.

You get to meet amazing people and hear their stories and take their minds off of their difficulties for a bit. They also get to meet other kids and families that are going through things as well and see they truly aren’t alone.

Is there anything else you want to share about your time with enCourage Kids?

One of the most powerful moments I have ever experienced that resonate with me to this day actually occurred at that first Sports Auction. I was introduced to one of our guests of honor and his family a young man who was there to see his favorite Yankee at the event. As we were walking around I asked him if he was planning on playing or working for the Yankees one day and he told me that he only had a few years left to live, so he didn’t think that could happen. I immediately became super emotional and he told me not to cry but said he expected me to live my life to its fullest and do a lot of great things since he didn’t have a lot of time to do them himself. His memory and words inspire me to this day. (Totally crying just remembering this.)

Meet Marisa

Marisa has been a volunteer with enCourage Kids for a little over 10 years. She originally started working with enCourage Kids as an intern her freshman year of college and stayed involved once her internship ended. Working in the medical field, she understands and demonstrates the importance of making the hospital a better place to get better.

What is your favorite memory from volunteering with enCourage Kids?

My favorite memory from volunteering with enCourage Kids is my very first time at Camp Pontiac. It was an amazing experience I will never forget- bonding with staff and other volunteers, having a ton of fun with the kids making s’mores at the big bonfire, playing games. It really set the stage for my continued involvement with EKF all these years. As a healthy child, I always dreamed of going away to summer camp, and it made me really appreciate the experience that this weekend allows for families of seriously ill children.

Is there anything else you want to share about your time with enCourage Kids?

It has been an absolute pleasure volunteering for EKF all these years. The staff is so extremely welcoming and the other volunteers have become lifelong friends due to our shared passion for the work EKF does.

Meet Casey and Rob

Casey was enCourage Kids’ Manager of Special Events for almost 3 years. She and her husband, Rob, are extremely passionate about making a difference in the world. As volunteers for about four years, they continue to brighten the lives of many enCourage kids.

What makes you so passionate about enCourage Kids?

Since enCourage Kids started out, their goal has been to enrich and strengthen the quality of life of children with illnesses or disabilities. When you see the children and their families, whether at an escape or with a clown in the hospital, you are overwhelmed by the hope and excitement you don’t expect to see. enCourage Kids families, give perspective on life. It is so amazing that they have an outlet like enCourage Kids to be themselves and feel relief if only for a little while.

What is your favorite memory of volunteering at enCourage Kids?

Our favorite memories, since we can’t pick one, are when families arrive at camp, or Loony Louie comes into the hospital, and you can feel the happiness and excitement!

Casey also shared her favorite staff memory:

We were at a hospital visit with Gala Honorees at NY Pres. As always on Tuesdays, Loony Louie was preforming and we got to sit with the children and watch his show. There was one child who was resistant to come into the playroom but came and sat in the back. As the show was going on, you could see the child get more comfortable and smile at Louie’s silly jokes and tricks. Eventually, this child was the most involved participant in the room and even helped him with a trick in front of the room! The way enCourage Kids works with Child Life Specialists to make a kid feel like a kid was so obvious to me in that moment. I was so proud to be a part of it all.

Meet Sarah Jane

Sarah Jane started with enCourage Kids as an editorial intern the summer after she graduated from college. During her time as an intern, she helped with many events and continued to help as a volunteer once her internship ended. Being one of our newer volunteers, Sarah Jane has already stolen the hearts of many of our enCourage kids and their family members.

What makes you so passionate about our mission?

I’m so touched by EKF’s determination to bring fun and laughter to the kids that need it most. These kids and their families go through so much, seeing the difference EKF’s events make in their lives is truly amazing.

What is your favorite memory from volunteering with enCourage Kids Foundation?

My favorite EKF event is definitely Camp Pontiac! S’mores are always a real highlight.

Is there anything else you want to share?

Just that I’ve been so thankful to contribute in any way I can to EKF and EKF families!

To sign up or for more information, please visit encourage-kids.org/volunteers or contact Briana at Briana@encourage-kids.org or 212-354-2878.