Charlene Taveras is like many Project Sunshine volunteers and Chapter Leaders nationwide � dedicated, passionate, and inspired to give back.
But Charlene has a very special connection to the Rusk Institute at NYU Langone Medical Center, where her chapter provides arts and enrichment
programming for children and families. When Charlene was three years old, she was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and was seen
regularly throughout her childhood at Hospital for Joint Diseases, where the Rusk Institute is located. When her condition worsened and it
became difficult to walk, Charlene had surgery at the age of 17 and spent months at the Rusk Institute. Now, as a Project Sunshine Chapter
Leader, Charlene is able to give back in a very special way.
"When I found Project Sunshine, I knew it was the perfect fit," Charlene says. "Growing up, I was always in and out of the hospital
and I know how frustrating, sad and lonely it can be. One of my favorite memories of being in the hospital as a child would be when
volunteers would visit and we would have arts and crafts. Project Sunshine is my chance to give back and bring some good memories to these children."
Lisa Del Guidice, the Senior Recreation Therapist at the Rusk Institute who worked with Charlene as a child, and who has worked
closely with Project Sunshine for over 15 years, is thrilled. Lisa says, "It has been so special having Charlene back as part of the
Rusk Institute family. Not only is she a caring, patient, and energetic soul; her life experiences allow her to relate to our patients
on an amazingly compassionate and empathetic level. It is not so often that we get to see what becomes of ´our´ kids when they grow up.
I am honored and privileged to experience what Charlene has become."
In addition to the children at the hospital, Charlene has also been able to inspire her friends around her. Her Project Sunshine Co-Chapter Leader,
Brenda Roman, is also a dedicated and passionate Project Sunshine volunteer. Brenda first heard about Project Sunshine from Charlene, and was inspired
to get involved. "I joined Project Sunshine at a point in my life when I really needed and wanted to give back. Project Sunshine has become a major
part of my life. It has changed me and made me see things differently," Brenda says.
"My greatest contribution is honestly just being able to bring a little bit of happiness to the children in this hospital," Charlene says.
"I have been there and I know just knowing someone cares makes a big difference. It feels good to know that my friends see me as an inspiration
and it motivates them to take their time out to volunteer."