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National Volunteer Week 2022: Volunteers Share Their Favorite Kate’s Club Moments

Date
April 15, 2022
Author
Kate's Club
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Every April, we celebrate National Volunteer Week — a time to recognize our volunteers and their profound impact the community and on Kate’s Club in particular. This year we recognized our volunteers by highlighting them on our Instagram and Facebook stories. We asked them to share their favorite memories at Kate’s Club and their inspiration for becoming a volunteer. Here are their stories:

Elisabeth Bletsch

Volunteer at Kate’s Club for 6 years

What is your favorite program at Kate’s Club?

Camp and HUGS

What is your favorite memory at Kate’s Club?

It is hard to choose one favorite memory because there are so many. It’s always great to see kids from camp at programs at the clubhouse in later months – there’s a connection there that lasts beyond camp that is really special. I also remember one particular moment I observed at the clubhouse on a program day between two longtime members and a brand new member – the girls that had been coming to KC for years recognized that their peer was new to KC and invited her to the playroom to play with them before the day started. Her face lit up and I could tell she felt accepted and comfortable… that’s the magic of Kate’s Club – members find the community that they need during difficult times and volunteers get to help facilitate that and be a part of helping kids/teenagers/families feel supported.

What got you first started as a volunteer?

I moved to Atlanta in 2015 and was looking for a community of my own through volunteering. I found KC online and felt so moved by the mission since I was a bereaved teenager myself. I am so grateful to still be a part of this community years later.

Kevin Foote

Volunteer at Kate’s Club for 1 Year

What is your favorite program at Kate’s Club?

Clubhouse

What is your favorite memory at Kate’s Club?

Watching the teens playing in the playground and interacting together.

What got you first started as a volunteer?

I love volunteering for good causes and assisting someone dealing for loss and grief seems like a noble one.

Abby Edwards

Volunteer at Kate’s Club for 2 Years

What is your favorite program at Kate’s Club?

Camp Good Mourning

What is your favorite memory at Kate’s Club?

Witnessing kids talk about grief over lunch at Camp Good Mourning. I was floored to see them talk so openly about their loved one who had died, while also being empathetic towards one another as the other person shared their story. Kate’s Club truly forms a community for these kids that most likely don’t have other peers in a similar situation as them. This community fosters trust and solidarity, allowing them to be open and honest with themselves and each other about their grief.

What got you first started as a volunteer?

My dad was sick with cancer and I was told he didn’t have much time left. I was 31 years old at the time and I started to think about all the milestones he was present for- my birthdays, sporting events, and family vacations. I knew I would be a different person today if he hadn’t been there for me along the way, giving me advice, encouragement and love. I started thinking about all the kids that didn’t have a father or mother with them throughout their entire childhood like I did and it just broke my heart. I soon stumbled upon Kate’s Club and knew I had to donate as much of my time and talent as I possibly could to this wonderful organization.

Katie Hart

Volunteer at Kate’s Club for 3 years

What is your favorite program at Kate’s Club?

Family Night

What is your favorite memory at Kate’s Club?

One Saturday, I had a member in my group who was feeling down. She did not feel like partaking and needed a break, so we went to the couches in the middle of the clubhouse. I noticed she had similar stress responses as me, and showed her some of my favorite ways to overcome the emotions, and within minutes, she was excited to use those tools and go back to the activities in the room. All smiles in no time! It was very special to be able to connect on a personal level with her and see the difference it made in her day.

What got you first started as a volunteer?

In summer of 2019, I participated in a company volunteer day at Kate’s Club and fell in love with the mission. From the moment I read about the Club, I knew I wanted to contribute time and efforts to help the community! Soon after the event, I signed up for Buddy Volunteer training and have been coming ever since.

Susan Goldsmith

Volunteer at Kate’s Club for almost 1 year

What is your favorite program at Kate’s Club?

I enjoy family night and connecting with the parents.

What is your favorite memory at Kate’s Club?

One Saturday, I had a member in my group who was feeling down. She did not feel like partaking and When asked at the end of a family night, what one word described how they felt about the evening, a young man who had not really spoken at all during the activity, said “needed.”

What got you first started as a volunteer?

In summer of 2019, I participated in a company volunteer day at Kate’s Club and fell in love with the I was interested in volunteering with a group where I could honor both our son, Cory, 32, and our daughter, Rachel, who passed away in 2015, 3 weeks before her 30th birthday.

Nancy Kriseman

Volunteer at Kate’s Club for almost 3 years

What is your favorite program at Kate’s Club?

Clubhouse

What is your favorite memory at Kate’s Club?

Geez, I have so many it’s hard to choose just one. One of my first experiences which has stayed with me forever in my heart was an activity we did at Clubhouse with children 7/8 years old using string. The children were supposed to draw the person who died and themselves and then use the string to connect them to their person who died. They had cutouts of children or adults and we told them they could decorate however they wanted. Then they were to attach the string from the picture of themselves to the picture of the person who died, teaching one of the core concepts of KC, continuing bonds. Well this little girl drew herself and her twin sister that had died and then drew two big hearts on her and her sister and connected the string to each of the hearts. She then told me that her sister is always in her heart.

What got you first started as a volunteer?

After the orientation I was hooked.

Jessica Stafford

Volunteer at Kate’s Club for 3 years

What is your favorite program at Kate’s Club?

Clubhouse

What is your favorite memory at Kate’s Club?

Any time I can help a child feel safe to share their hardships, or even feel safe just to have some fun.

What got you first started as a volunteer?

I originally started as a way to earn volunteer hours required for a career program. Life (and mostly Covid) changes things so I decided to forgo the career program but kept with Kate’s Club regardless.

Grace Hensel

Volunteer at Kate’s Club for almost 1 year

What is your favorite program at Kate’s Club?

Family Night

What is your favorite memory at Kate’s Club?

Getting to connect with the kids and help them connect with each other at Camp Good Mourning

What got you first started as a volunteer?

I was a member after my dad died when I was 11. I came to programs for a while, always wanting to volunteer one day. After I moved back to Atlanta from graduate school, I knew I wanted to get involved and give back to this wonderful organization in whatever way I could.

Janet Marie Gunnels

Volunteer at Kate’s Club for 5 years

What is your favorite program at Kate’s Club?

HUGS

What is your favorite memory at Kate’s Club?

I was with the 7-8 year olds one morning at the Clubhouse, and we had a boy who didn’t seem to want to participate at all and was beginning to disrupt the rest of the group. It was a somewhat frustrating morning, but after lunch while we were playing outside he and I started tossing the football and I could tell he was finally enjoying himself. He got a lot of energy out and when we went back inside he shared some of his feelings about his loss with me, and it was a really validating moment that reminded me that kids (just like adults!) need time and space to get to a point where they can open up!

What got you first started as a volunteer?

A friend of mine volunteered and she’d mentioned it to me a few times because my dad died when I was little and she thought I’d be able to connect. When my brother died in 2017, she gently reminded me about Kate’s Club again. Here I am 5 years later!

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