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Volunteer Spotlight: Chicago Chapter

Project Sunshine´s Chicago Chapter Leaders, Eugenia Ostrozhansky and Rachel Peckler, started as volunteers after the chapter was founded at the end of 2013 by Chloe Connor. After a wonderful year of programming, Eugenia and Rachel both wanted to get more involved and they stepped up as Chapter Leaders in November 2014!

Eugenia and Rachel have been busy planning and hosting wonderful programs in the Chicago community. Their Creative Arts & Crafts programs at Rush Medical Center feature themed crafts, from tie fleece pillows to color your own bookmarks. Rachel and Eugenia provide not only fun themed crafts, but relaxing and recreational Caregiver Wellness activities for parents and caregivers. This chapter also recently expanded their programming to Lurie Children´s Hospital, where after just one program, they were asked to begin regular monthly programming! "The positive feedback we received from the Child Life Specialists and parents who participated in our first event at Lurie Children´s Hospital brought huge smiles to our faces. Based on the overwhelmingly positive feedback, we were invited to have regular programming at Lurie which was a very exciting and proud moment for us both."

Working closely with dedicated Child Life and Family Life staff, Eugenia and Rachel´s volunteers transform the hospital environment from a stressful space to a fun and relaxing atmosphere. Chicago´s programs feel "like a festive party, and it was hard to believe we were actually in the middle of the pediatric unit of a hospital, which is exactly the environment we strive to create at each of our events," according to Eugenia and Rachel.

The chapter provides a sense of normalcy to an environment that is usually intimidating, for both children and caregivers. At their recent Rush Medical Center program for caregivers, Rachel and Eugenia planned a variety of activities including make-your-own peppermint scrub. When reflecting on this program, both had great things to share. "Everyone involved was chatting with not only the volunteers but with fellow caregivers and patients. The event was very inclusive and everyone actively participated in heartfelt discussions and joked around with one another. It felt like we were with longtime friends rather than volunteering at a hospital."

With their dedication to the Chicago community, Rachel and Eugenia truly bring Project Sunshine´s mission to work. When asked why they love Project Sunshine, they both stated, "We love that Project Sunshine gives opportunities for children, siblings, and parents to laugh and enjoy themselves while taking their minds off the hard times they are going through. Our favorite moments are when we are able to sit and chit chat like old friends with the older patients and parents or goof off with the younger children and forget that we are even in the hospital." Thanks to these wonderful Chapter Leaders, Project Sunshine Chicago is a successful and thriving addition to Project Sunshine worldwide.

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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