A Thank You to MDA Volunteers for the Incredible Joy and Hope They Spread
By Rebecca Hume | Wednesday, November 22, 2023
During this season of Thanksgiving, and throughout The Year of the Volunteer, MDA strives to acknowledge and honor the incredible impact our volunteers have on the families we serve. MDA’s mission to empower the people we serve to live longer, more independent lives would not be possible without the dedication of our volunteers. The time and energy invested by those equally passionate about our cause have a direct and undeniable impact on MDA’s ability to accelerate research, advance care, and provide meaningful programming to our families.
With an abundance of gratitude, MDA staff and the individuals and families we serve thank our volunteers for the life-changing and empowering opportunities they create. Whether through programs like MDA Summer Camp or by raising funds for critical research, we are ever so thankful for the joy and hope volunteers bring to the community.
MDA staff reflect on the impact of MDA Summer Camp volunteers
Beth Gaertner, a Recreation Program Team Specialist, recognizes how crucial volunteers are to successfully implementing quality programs for our youngest community members at camp each summer. “It takes a special person to advocate for and work with community members that interact with the world differently than you do,” Beth says. “I want to say thank you to our volunteers for continuing to show up, to advocate, to fundraise, and to change lives. We could not do our jobs without them and there are never enough ways to express how beloved our volunteers are by our campers and how appreciated they are by us.”
Working directly with volunteers, Beth not only witnesses how influential their dedication is to the programs MDA provides, but also appreciates the opportunity to watch volunteers grow and shine as they make connections. Beth especially enjoys the camaraderie and teamwork that creates a cohesive unity for camp volunteers as they work together – and the incredible connections they develop with campers.
“Outside of camp, our volunteers might identify as ICU nurses, college students, or pre-kindergarten teachers, but at camp, we’re all working toward a common goal to give campers the best week of the year,” Beth says. “Each volunteer brings something special to the team and it’s so fun to see them connect with campers and other volunteers over their professions or similar interests. They show our campers unconditional support, not just at camp, but many stay in touch throughout the year and remain friends long after someone’s time at camp ends. The connections formed in the MDA camp community are unlike anything I have experienced outside of the organization.”
Recreation Programs Specialist Emma Keaveny can also attest to the power of the MDA camp community. “With many volunteers returning to camp year after year for five, ten, even twenty years, the passion camp volunteers have for our campers and the camp program is undeniable,” she says. “Our team pours their heart into the summer camp program, and to have volunteers who care as deeply as we do is an amazing gift.”
In her role, Emma directs a number of camp sessions each year. Echoing Beth’s gratitude, Emma shares that she could not possibly run her sessions without volunteer support. “Volunteers act as our medical staff, program staff, and camp counselors in the cabins working with our campers,” she says I want to thank all of our volunteers for their time and energy, and the love that they give to our program and our campers. We truly couldn’t do this 70-year-program without you!”
Many campers, community members, and their families share the immense gratitude that MDA staff feels towards our volunteers. In fact, community members and family members are often so inspired by the positive experiences they’ve had with MDA volunteer-supported programs that they decide to become volunteers themselves.
Giving back with gratitude
Kamal Sanghani first learned about MDA Summer Camp when his grandson, Devan, attended as a camper. Devan, who lives with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, fell in love with summer camp and shared his passion and excitement with his grandfather. Witnessing Devan’s joy and the support his family has received from MDA programs filled Kamal with a strong sense of gratitude – and motivation to join the cause.
Kamal became a volunteer for MDA Summer Camp and embraced every aspect of his experience as a volunteer. He shares his passion for empowering young campers, a deep appreciation for his fellow volunteers, and the lessons he learned.
“I loved the experience. I learned a lot about managing life with patience, both from the campers and their parents,” Kamal says. “I am grateful to be able to volunteer for MDA because I had an opportunity to serve kids, which brought them joy and helped them to understand people truly care for them and they are not alone. I worked with five other volunteers in my group, ages 20 to 60, and each one worked hard to take care of the campers as if they were their own children. I want to thank these men as well; they have a special place in my heart forever.”
Volunteering also provided Kamal with an appreciation for his own gifts and compassion he can share with others. Moved by his time at camp, he hopes to volunteer at camp for as many sessions and years as he can. “The joy of being there with the campers and helping them makes me want to do so much more than I could ever do,” he says. “I want to do this job three or more times each year!”
Thankful to give and to receive
Allyson Pack-Adair, who lives with mitochondrial myopathy, has found valuable resources and support in MDA programming. Allyson shares that MDA volunteers have positively impacted her life through virtual summer camp and the STEM exploration mentorship program. “MDA volunteers, in general, throughout my life have been friendly and knowledgeable individuals to talk to,” she says. “Many of the programs I have participated with through the MDA would not have been possible without volunteers. Their time and efforts make so many things possible, and that is so important to people in the neuromuscular disease community.”
Allyson participated in the STEM mentorship program in 2021, 2022, and 2023, an experience that provided her with skills, resources, information, and connections to support her passion for science. When she reflects on the impact the program had on her and how much the dedication of the volunteer mentors meant to her, one memory stands out as her favorite experience with an MDA volunteer.
“This volunteer mentor worked in a scientific medical research lab with laboratory rats,” Allyson says. “She took time out of her workday, and sometimes even stayed after work, to show all of the program participants the research that she and her team had been doing. This was a special memory because not only did she prioritize making time to share with us and teach us, but it was also really cool to see potential future treatments in research.”
To Allyson, volunteering means connecting oneself with their community and giving what you can to help others. This mindset, and her experiences with MDA volunteers, motivated Allyson to serve to her community as well. She is currently a volunteer MDA Ambassador, a role that allows her to progress MDA’s mission while also empowering her with the opportunity to give back.
“I am grateful to be able to volunteer for MDA because their efforts have made my ability to volunteer a possibility,” Allyson says. “I am excited to give back to my community and make at least a small difference for others.”
Thank you to all of our volunteers
Today, this year, every year past, and all of the years to come – we say THANK YOU to our cherished MDA volunteers.
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