August 12 is International Youth Day. This year’s theme recognizes the many areas that young people feel free and welcomed to come together and make a difference.
We are grateful for the many teen volunteers who serve at Empath Health. In 2017, more than 500 teen volunteers contributed more than 20,000 service hours across our network of care. This includes visits with patients and families, office work, support for seniors and clients, events, fundraisers, Resale Shops and so much more.
“Our teens are the cream of the crop. They have made a great impact in the community and on this planet. They are our future,” expressed Randi Meyer, Empath Health volunteer programs manager.
Caring for Her Family
Sydney Richardson shared a special bond with her dying grandfather in North Carolina. He suffered from his illness and treatment and benefited from her compassion and support.
“My grandfather had lung cancer when I was in eighth grade. He was really angry at everyone, but because I was young he let me take care of him,” Richardson shared.
She provided companionship and cared for his personal needs and comfort.
“When getting chemotherapy and radiation he had trouble eating. I would bring him food and water and try to help him eat and drink. I would rub cream on his skin because it was burned. Later, he had trouble talking and I would sit and talk with him. We didn’t get him into hospice, but I really enjoyed taking care of him,” she said.
Supporting Our Patients and Families
Richardson is set to start her senior year in the medical magnet program at Palm Harbor University High School. She joined as a Suncoast Hospice teen volunteer in 2016 after word-of-mouth from other students who have volunteered.
Serving our pediatric patients brings her special joy.
“I have a few special assignments working with younger kids. I have two little boys, a patient and his sibling. They are adorable. I go over and play with them for caregiver relief so their mom can sleep and do things around the house. I also tutored a teenager in chemistry. It was really fun getting to know her because we had mutual things and friends in common and we have the same birthday. I got to throw a Party Pals birthday party for her when she turned 18. Eight of us teen volunteers were there,” she said.
She has also been involved with many other areas including the Teen Volunteer Leadership Board, Cheer Team visits and most recently the Lifetime Legacies videotaping of patients’ stories.
She is driven to make a great impact on others.
“To be a good teen volunteer, it takes compassion, empathy, selflessness and willingness to do it. A lot of people are getting their volunteer hours for Bright Futures and once they reach 200 hours they are going to stop. I really have had a great time with hospice and I will definitely continue volunteering for as long as I can.”
Her service has made a positive impression on her life.
“I really had no idea what it was like going into it. I was pretty nervous. I’m a shy person. I’ve learned from watching other volunteers who are older than me. I really looked up a lot to Priya Adhikari, who volunteered and just graduated. It’s been really fun working with patients and families. Volunteering makes me feel happy and good about myself. I feel like I’m doing something good for others. It gives me fulfillment.”
Interests and Ambitions
In her senior year, Richardson plans to pursue a busy academic, volunteer and extracurricular schedule.
“I am president of Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA) and a member of the Key Club. I will be vice president of National Honor’s Society. I’ve been dancing since I was ten years old and will be in my 10th Nutcracker performance. I like to Jazzercise, work out and spend time with my friends and family. We just got a puppy so I take him a lot of places. He’s an Australian Shepherd named Cooper and now seven months old,” she explained.
She also has her sights set on college and a family.
“I’m starting the application process. I’m applying to lots of schools in Florida. My top choice is the University of Florida. I’m also going to apply to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I want to major in biology or chemistry in a pre-med track and minor in Spanish, so I can be a bilingual physician. I also want to have a family. I feel like my major purpose in life is to be a mom. I want to keep volunteering, feel healthy and fit and make an impact on more people’s lives.”
Calling Teen Volunteers
Are you a high school student who wants to make a difference? Learn more online about our many teen volunteer opportunities.
Share Your Story
Do you serve or have you served in our teen volunteer program? Please share your story here.