People have been connected with Project Sunshine in all kinds of ways- but Eugenia Ostrozhansky’s volunteer origin story spans state lines! Eugenia started volunteering with the Project Sunshine chapter in Austin when she was in Texas visiting a friend. Watching the hospital transform into a party atmosphere, Eugenia says she still remembers the laughter and sense of community.

EugeniaShe was thrilled when a Project Sunshine chapter started in her hometown of Chicago. She began volunteering with the chapter in 2013 and became the chapter leader in 2014. “I decided to volunteer with Project Sunshine to get more involved in my community. I love working with kids and think Project Sunshine is a great way to take their mind off any struggles they’re going through, which actually improves recovery times!” says Eugenia.

The chapters mainly work at two different facilities, Rush University Medical Facility and the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. At Rush, the programs are geared more towards inpatient, bedside visits. “We also visit children in more critical conditions in the pediatric intensive care unit. It enables us to visit patients that couldn’t be transported, plus any family.” Lurie is a slightly different structure- the volunteers are in the family life center and they share the space with therapy dogs who also visit the hospital. “We try to foster a party-type setting and do crafts together in this beautiful, kid-friendly space.”

Eugenia has made memories at both Midwest medical facilities in her time as a Project Sunshine chapter leader- enough to have surpassed our 100-hour volunteer mark this year! Her time as a Project Sunshine volunteer has taught her “to always look on the bright side, just like the kids we interact with. It reminds me that we’re always surrounded by kind, caring people.”

“Project Sunshine transforms what would otherwise possibly be a stressful and sad environment into a happy and festive one. It gives opportunities for children, siblings, and parents to laugh and enjoy themselves while taking their minds off whatever else is going on. My favorite moments are when we’re able to sit and chat like old friends with the older patients or parents, or goof-off with the younger children and forget we’re even in the hospital,” says Eugenia.

Eugenia plans to continue to serve her community- in the future, she’s hoping to have a furry friend volunteer with her. She plans to have her adopted pitbull become a qualified therapy dog. “He’s great with kids- we’re already a third of the way there!”

For more information on becoming a Project Sunshine volunteer in your community, email community@projectsunshine.org, or fill out an application here.