Meet two RMHC Toronto volunteers, Ana and Stuart. Both Ana and Stuart have been committed to the mission for over five years and continue to passionately support RMHC Toronto.
When Ana moved to Toronto to attend the University of Toronto for her master’s degree in medical sciences, she quicky felt overwhelmed. Coming from Hamilton, Toronto felt busy, strange, and intimidating. It wasn’t until she started volunteering at the Ronald McDonald Family Room at SickKids Hospital, that she finally felt settled. As part of her studies, Ana worked in the endocrine department at SickKids and wanted to volunteer in the Family Room. She was curious about the perspective of children and families directly benefitting from her research and volunteering at the Family Room allowed her to interact with families and directly see the impact of her work.
While Ana has not been able to volunteer since before the COVID-19 pandemic, she says her favourite part of being a volunteer is the people she got to work with and the families she saw on a regular basis and built connections with.
Her usual duties included cleaning the sleeping pods, the kitchen, organizing the room and often bringing book donations as Ana is an avid reader. But her two favourite memories of the Family Room include Christmas Day and the World Cup in 2018.
As Ana doesn’t celebrate Christmas on December 25, she spent Christmas at the hospital. Making gingerbread houses with the kids and interacting with the families. Before COVID, the Family Room would be full of families and gifts. “While families couldn’t be home on Christmas day,” says Ana, “often siblings would come into the Family Room after visiting their siblings. Seeing the families united and giving gifts gave them a sense of normalcy in the hospital.”
During the World Cup soccer tournament in 2018, Ana would come down to the Family Room to watch the games even when she wasn’t volunteering. “No matter where the families were from, they enjoyed watching the matches. Watching the games and cheering together gave them a distraction from what was going on outside of the Family Room,” she explains. “It united everyone in the midst of the challenges they were experiencing.”
Ana has since graduated and works at SickKids Hospital as a clinical research program manager in neurology and as a project manager for neuromuscular trials. She is looking forward to volunteering again, as the Family Rooms have opened back up after closures during the pandemic. She can’t wait to continue to build connections with families and make great memories.
Stuart began his volunteering journey at the RMHC Toronto House in 2016. When Stuart and his husband began looking at adopting a child, he felt he lacked experience in engaging with children and wanted to find ways to amend this. Through the Home for Dinner program, RMHC Toronto offered him a unique opportunity to connect with children and their families.
Before the pandemic, Stuart spent his time at the House assisting the volunteer teams in preparing hot and fresh buffet-style meals for the families. As COVID becomes more of an endemic, Stuart continues to prepare meals for families He works alongside Food Programs Manager, Chef Michael David, and fellow volunteers, Curtis, and Marianna, to package up meals and deliver them to families. Stuart says that coming to the house every Tuesday and giving back to families going through so much is his favourite part of the week.
I find my weekly shifts very rewarding because I can help alleviate the pressure that busy families feel when they need to prepare food at the end of a stressful day. They need quality time to relax and just enjoy each other’s company.
Stuart and his husband have since adopted their son. Stuart says he values the time he spends with families at the House because it has shown him the amazing lengths parents will go for their children.
To learn more about how you can volunteer with RMHC Toronto, please click here: Volunteer Opportunities