My love story with babies at Children’s National Hospital began in 1995 after reading about Project Champ in the Washington Post. The hospital sought volunteers to provide emotional support for babies and children infected with HIV/AIDS. I called immediately.
More than 100 others and I embarked on a training mission and each committed to volunteer at least 100 hours that year. I rocked and fed babies and even changed diapers. I played cards with older children. I watched the amazing work of devoted care providers at Children’s National. I cherished the time I spent and knew from the start that it would change my life.
During the holidays, we would take siblings of patients on a holiday trip to the “North Pole.” At Dulles Airport, we would board a plane. The pilot would rev the engines for a few minutes on an empty runway. The children would disembark to meet Santa Claus and receive a gift. Then we’d get back on the bus to the hospital. Not once did a child ever ask how we got back without flying. The innocence of a child is remarkable.
In 2020, I was the only volunteer remaining from the original Project Champ group. Comforting these children over the years has made me who I am today. It has been one of the best experiences of my 80 years. Up until the global pandemic, I still volunteered weekly in the hospital’s neonatal and pediatric intensive care units. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be part of the Children’s National family. I feel blessed to have had this experience and so look forward to the next 25 years.
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