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Volunteer Spotlight: American Express Community Chapter Leader, Ashley Tufts

Ashley Tufts, a Project Sunshine Community Chapter Leader, was originally introduced to Project Sunshine through her employer, American Express, who has a strong culture of community service. American Express partners with Project Sunshine nationally to engage hundreds of their employees to volunteer each year providing Craft Kits and Surgi Dolls to thousands of pediatric patients across the country. Additionally, American Express generously supports Project Sunshine´s community programs. In the Fall of 2013, Ashley´s department organized a Project Sunshine event to create back-to-school Craft Kits for children at a local hospital. Ashley learned that volunteers would deliver their kits to the hospital, and "thought about how great it would be to be there and help put a smile on those kids´ faces with such a fun activity. I knew I wanted to help brighten kids´ days, and Project Sunshine made it easy to do."

Nearly two years later, Ashley continues to do just that! After volunteering with Project Sunshine through American Express, Ashley decided to get more involved as a community volunteer and ultimately became a Sunshine Chefs Chapter Leader in NYC. Led by Ashley and her fellow Chapter Leader Mariya Dvoretskaya, the kids, family members, and volunteers work together every month to create a healthy three–course meal and learn fun facts about the ingredients and recipes. The kids and volunteers then sit down to enjoy a special meal together!

During a Thanksgiving themed event last fall, Ashley´s chapter taught the kids to make pumpkin "snowballs" for dessert. She remarks that the kids "decided to make it into a little cooking competition–girls versus boys. They split into teams and each followed the recipe to see who could make the best batch of pumpkin snowballs. There was friendly banter back and forth the whole time, and I remember the girls´ team even went off-recipe throwing in a few chocolate chips thinking that would seal the win. After we finished cooking, the volunteers set out a couple of jars and invited everyone to taste test each batch and vote on their favorite. Believe it or not, the BOYS won!"

"I am so appreciative to the Project Sunshine volunteers for their persistence and excellence!" says Director Ma of Morning Glory Rehab Center, "At first I thought they will just come and go, like the other volunteers, and I do not blame them as we are almost two hours away from the city. But they keep on coming back—bringing a variety of activities to our kids. Now every Tuesday afternoon, the kids come to the doorway and ask ´Where are the sunshine sisters?´"

This story is just one example of the great impact Ashley and her Sunshine Chefs chapter have on the children and families they work with. Thanks to American Express´ partnership with Project Sunshine, wonderful volunteers like Ashley are able to have a positive impact on so many children and families facing medical challenges in their community! Thank you, Ashley, for being inspired by your company´s volunteerism and making such a wonderful commitment to Project Sunshine´s children and families!

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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