For volunteers, giving is an honor

Every day, some of the most important work done at the June E. Nylen Cancer Center is done by a dedicated group of volunteers.

They serve coffee and cookies, they help new patients understand what’s ahead, and they make sure that cancer center events run smoothly. But their personal experiences and words of encouragement make them more than just assistants here. They make them family.

Hundreds of people step up each year, many of them without being asked. They see it as a calling, a duty, a right.

Carole Walton (left) is one of the many volunteers who stop by each week to help in the lobby.

“Since I had lost my mother and both of my grandmothers to cancer, I felt it was a really good way to honor them,” she said. “One of my best friends was one of the two ladies who started the lobby volunteer program. She asked if I would like to get involved.”

That was in 2001, shortly after Walton retired, and she’s been with the program ever since.

As Walton walks through the halls here, staff and returning patients offer kind words and smiles, even hugs. She represents the many volunteer faces that walk through the doors each week and quietly, humbly lend a hand.

For many volunteers here, the role is just giving back to an institution they appreciate – whether they, a family member or a friend have gone through treatment here.

And while the work isn’t tedious, it’s sometime emotional. Walton thinks back through the years as we talk, citing the many faces who have come and gone, many who just want someone to talk to as they receive treatment. “A lot of people really like to sit and visit for a while,” she said. “I have made so many good friends, and lost a lot of good friends, through this place.”

But the kindness of the Nylen Center volunteers extends far beyond the walls of the downtown building. The Winter Benefit, the Race for Hope, Boxers and Bras for a Cause – all annual events that help fund prevention, awareness and patient programs – are run with the help of volunteers.

Outside of treating patients directly, volunteers are involved in nearly everything the cancer center does.

“Volunteers are truly the heart and soul of the June E. Nylen Cancer Center,” said Karen Van De Steeg, Cancer Center Director. “Every day we are blessed to have them be a part of our community support team. We could not do it without them.”

For Walton and many others, the payback is clear: “It’s probably been more beneficial to me than (the patients),” she said.

From the look of her big smile, she’s probably right.

This story originally printed in our Hope & Healing summer 2012 newsletter

Post by Robin McGinty

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