Side view of volunteer Devin Jensen helping a camper hold a bow and arrow

National Volunteer Month: Why I Volunteer for MDA

April is National Volunteer Month! As MDA celebrates a month honoring the incredible volunteers who make our mission possible, we are excited to spotlight four dedicated individuals and families from the MDA volunteer community. In honor of their commitment to MDA and in gratitude for the impact that they have had on the families that we serve, we say “Thank you!” to Devin Jensen, Kathia Rivera Fontánez, Mike Bellotti, and the Ryan and Tammi Booth family as they answer questions about what volunteering means to them.

Devin Jensen, MDA Summer Camp & STEM Connections Program volunteer

Devin wears a blue t-shirt and gives a double thumbs up next to a camper in a wheelchair also giving thumbs up

Volunteer Devin Jensen and camper, Jacob at MDA Summer Camp

Devin has been volunteering for MDA for over a decade. Professionally, he is an engineer at Microsoft, tasked with the responsibility of managing the safety and stability of the Windows Operating System. A self-described nerd at heart, he loves all things gaming (both digital and tabletop). In his free time, he also enjoys programming, martial arts, cooking, playing with his two cats, practicing sleight of hand magic, and traveling the world with his wonderful wife. He believes that everyone should always look for opportunities to bring joy into the world!

Why do you volunteer?

I think it’s important for everyone to look for an opportunity to bring more joy into the world. Not everyone has the time, resources, or capacity to give back. But for those that do, I think there is no better use of our time.

What do you enjoy about volunteering?

For me, volunteering provides fulfillment and meaning. It allows me to make the world a slightly better place than it was before I came along.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about volunteering with MDA?

GO FOR IT. Seriously. You’ll get to work with some amazing people doing work that makes the world a better place. The people who come back to volunteer for MDA year after year are some of the best, most kindhearted people I’ve ever met. The difference you can make is extraordinary.

Kathia Rivera Fontánez, MDA Summer Camp, Gala, Telethon, and local event volunteer

Kathia smiles from a table covered with t-shirts at an MDA event

Volunteer Kathia Rivera Fontánez

Kathia Rivera Fontánez has been volunteering for MDA for 30 years. The 46-year-old cancer survivor lives in Puerto Rico and places a high value on serving others. In addition to volunteering at MDA, she has also served her community as volunteer for church mission work and as a mentor to youth with special needs. She credits the support of community and other volunteers with providing her with strength during her battle with Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and shares that, upon recovery, it brought her great joy to resume her volunteer role with MDA. In her free-time, Kathia enjoys reading, watching movies, cooking new recipes and desserts, listening to music, traveling, and listening to ocean waves.

What do you enjoy about volunteering?

I enjoy knowing that every step I take to help with fundraising or by just being a friend or a helping hand to someone else, makes their lives a little bit easier. And it is meaningful to me to be able to add to the hope that MDA keeps making progress for treatments for all conditions.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about volunteering with MDA?

I would recommend that you do not think about it and just do it, because it’s going to change your life and the way you see life forever.

What made you choose to volunteer with MDA, specifically?

When I was introduced to MDA, it was by my leader and his wife of the missionary group that I belonged to, they were both MDA volunteers as well. They told me about MDA’s mission and all of the people in the neuromuscular community. My first experience volunteering for MDA was to collect money with piggy banks in the Telethon. I became an MDA Summer Camp counselor in 1993, where a met a young camper named Angel. I made a promise to Angel that I would stay committed to MDA’s mission and continue to bring joy to other kids in the community for as long as I am able to.

Mike Bellotti, Mike Bellotti’s Toast to Strength Gala Dinner Auction and Golf Tournament host and volunteer

Mike Bellotti in smiles from a golf cart wearing a black ball cap and black long sleeve athletic shirt

Volunteer Mike Bellotti

While at the University of Oregon, Coach Mike Bellotti was introduced to the MDA Toast to Strength by a former colleague whose son lived with a neuromuscular disease. After the head coach who originally hosted the event left the university, MDA approached Mike about continuing the tradition of the event and he has hosted it, and the associated golf event ever since. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Mike Bellotti Toast to Strength Gala and Golf Tournament. Throughout the past three decades, Mike’s dedication and commitment to raising funds and awareness for MDA hasn’t wavered. In the last 10 years alone, Mike has helped to raise over $1.6 million. He feels good about his contributions and says he “enjoys watching what we do, raising funds to support research and development that can improve the quality of life for people with neuromuscular disease”.  

Mike and his wife Colleen have three children and four grandchildren and will celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary this summer. In addition to his time and energy spent on MDA fundraising events, Mike enjoys fishing, golf, pickleball, and traveling to visit family and friends.

Why do you volunteer?

I volunteer because I know that there is a need and we can make a difference.

What do you enjoy about volunteering?

I enjoy watching what we do, raising funds, and supporting research and development that can improve the quality of life for people living with neuromuscular disease.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about volunteering with MDA?

If you volunteer, you will meet new and interesting people, enjoy yourself by giving your time and energy, and make a significant difference in the lives of others.

The Booth Family, MDA Summer Camp, Telethon, Fill-the-Boot, Gala, and local event volunteers

Ryan Booth holds a foam shield and bat in front of a camper in his power wheelchair outside during a game at MDA Summer Camp

Volunteer Ryan Booth at MDA Summer Camp

The Booth family is a family of six who love volunteering and spending time together. The family has been volunteering with MDA for over 20 years. Parents Ryan and Tammi are both in public education and have been together for 23 years. The oldest daughter, Makaila, is a junior at the University of Washington studying Communications and would like to work in Women’s sports when she graduates. Daughter Shaliyah is a world traveler and loves working out at the gym. Ryan, Tammi, Makaila, and Shaliyah have all served as MDA Summer Camp volunteers for multiple years. The two youngest children in the family are eager to follow in their footsteps once they are old enough to be camp counselors as well. Outside of work, Ryan finds his peace on the golf course and Tammi finds hers hidden inside the pages of a good book. The Booth clan has a tradition of family dinners every Sunday night, filled with extended family, sports on the TV, laughter in the air, and games on the table.

Ryan’s father, Charlie Booth, and cousin, Derek Mays, also serve as MDA Summer Camp volunteers. Ryan shares his answers to our volunteer questions.

What does volunteering mean to you and your family?

MDA has become an integral part of our lives. We can clearly say that our family wouldn’t exist without MDA camp. Some of our closest friends are people who we have volunteered with over the years at camp. People will claim that they are there for the kids, but if we are being honest – we are just as much there for ourselves. It is truly my favorite week of the year. I love the kids and the families that we work with. We simply love it.

What do you enjoy about volunteering?

The week of camp is an amazing space where you are surrounded by the best people in the world. The campers are having the time of their lives. The volunteers are there to make it possible, and then all of a sudden they realize they are also having the best time. The smiles, the tears, the sleepless nights, it’s everything.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about volunteering with MDA?

Give it a try. There is plenty to be nervous about and plenty of questions that you probably don’t have answers to before you start. For Summer Camp specifically, you are going to show up to camp on a Sunday and by Monday afternoon you will realize just how great of a place you have found yourself in. Give it a shot. Call MDA, fill out the application, just go! It’s going to be so worth it.

Gratitude for volunteers all year long

At MDA, the significant impact that volunteers have across the many programs, fundraising initiatives, and community events in our organization is impressive – and immeasurable. We celebrate and appreciate the massive impact of our volunteers this month, and all year! “Families are at the heart of our mission, and we couldn’t fulfill our mission without the volunteers who work tirelessly to support the neuromuscular disease community in so many ways,” says Donald S. Wood, PhD., President and CEO of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. “That is why we have proclaimed 2023 The Year of the Volunteer.”

Next Steps and Useful Resources

Disclaimer: No content on this site should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.