It feels good to give, especially this time of year. As you give to your loved ones near and far and help those in need, remember young children have the capacity to give, too.
Nine-year-old Andrew “Andy” Villamagna really wanted to help older sick people feel better through his school’s Make the World a Better Place project. He chose to bring holiday cheer to the patients of Suncoast Hospice, a member of Empath Health. His inspiration came from his loving grandparents and big sister, Olivia, 16 and a Suncoast Hospice teen volunteer.
Cheering Up Patients
Andy, Olivia and their mom, Dana, all got involved putting together Thanksgiving gift bags, which Olivia’s Cheer Team delivered to Suncoast Hospice patients at a skilled nursing and rehab facility. Everyone was thankful and loved them. Andy’s giving didn’t stop there. He treated the team to homemade brownies.
How does someone so young feel about serving others?
Andrew said, “When I worked on the crafts and bags, I thought about helping the sick people, and that made me feel good. Someday I’d like to volunteer with hospice. My grandma and grandpa are older and nice people who make me feel special. I want to help older people like them feel special, too.”
There will be a continued need for support for Tampa Bay’s rising older population, many of whom face advanced and chronic illnesses. Although the entire nation is experiencing the aging of the baby boomer generation, a higher proportion of the Tampa Bay population is age 55 or older when compared to most other regions (How Healthy is Tampa Bay? An Assessment of Our Region’s Health, Tampa Bay Partnership). Of those served by Suncoast Hospice last fiscal year, 71 % were ages 75 and older.
Many older patients in hospice care enjoy the company and compassion of young people. Volunteerism also benefits youth, including experiencing fun, positive energy and increased self esteem (Youth & Volunteering, United Way).
Olivia’s Suncoast Hospice service has enriched her life, particularly the Cheer Team visits with patients and families and Honor Flight send-offs for local veterans. She’s recognized as being outgoing, friendly and a good listener – a natural at volunteering with hospice patients.
There’s no limit to the impact the younger generation can make on others and themselves. Andy and Olivia have set a fine example.
“This has been so nice for Andy to be able to support a community service that his sister loves and learn about hospice. We sometimes forgot to recognize the good teens do in the community. I’m so proud of Olivia for volunteering with hospice and glad Andy could support her efforts,” Dana said.
Give Your Local Support
Want to volunteer? Empath Health has many rewarding ways you can support the needs of those challenged by illness. The Suncoast Hospice community service centers and care centers have a big need for office, welcome center, evening and weekend volunteers. Get started with a free volunteer training.