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Volunteer Spotlight: Bella Simons

January 16, 2017

Project Sunshine's Kids for Kids program allows children and teens under the age of 18 to give back in a special way. From assembling Creative Arts & Craft Kits and sewing Surgi Dolls, to organizing fundraisers and toy drives, Kids for Kids provides both service and leadership opportunities for the next generation of volunteers.

For one volunteer, giving back has a new meaning. Bella Simons, a member of the Carmel High School Kids for Kids Chapter in Indiana, had been volunteering with Project Sunshine since her freshman year of high school. Then, in her sophomore year, Bella started to experience debilitating headaches and other symptoms. She was soon diagnosed with a brain tumor, and immediately went into lifesaving brain surgery at Riley Children's Hospital.

During her hospital treatment that followed, Bella received special packages from Project Sunshine and her Carmel High School chapter of volunteers – similar to the packages and craft kits that she had previously helped create for other children. She says the support and encouragement from her Project Sunshine chapter and Project Sunshine Faculty Advisor, Allyson Wells, helped her get through some very tough times.

By September of 2016, the tumor had collapsed and Bella was later able to return to school. She now continues to be very involved with Project Sunshine at her high school, spreading sunshine to other children facing medical challenges. Giving back has always come naturally to her, especially after what she has been through this past year. She was recently awarded the 2017 Riley Champion Award, for children who show courage and selfless dedication to others through philanthropic efforts.

Bella's inspiring story has also touched the lives of students at Carmel High School. With the encouragement of their teacher Allyson, her sophomore class read the book Brain on Fire, which is about a young woman who suffers from a similar condition to Bella. The book gave the students a chance to understand Bella's situation and they each wrote reports on the similarities and differences between Bella and the story. Even the track team adopted Bella as their honorary member. Bella says, "I feel so excited about what I've been through, I can encourage other kids to have hope and to not give up. That's what I've learned from all of this: the power of hope".

More Volunteer Stories of Interest

Sports Illustrated model, Damaris Lewis, volunteered for her second year as a Project Sunshine Dance Camp instructor to empower young women through dance.
Emilio Delgado, who has played Luis on Sesame Street for 40 years, brought sunshine to pediatric patients at Mount Sinai´s KidZone as part of Project Sunshine´s Book Club

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