October Volunteer of the Month – Cheryl McGarrity
Meet our volunteers! Each month, we highlight a stand-out volunteer (or two) and how they support families. For October, meet Cheryl McGarrity (pictured above in pink), whose incredible work on the gardens at our House near Central DuPage Hospital bring a breath of fresh air to families.
- How long have you volunteered with us?
I started volunteering five years ago.
- Why did you first start volunteering with RMHC-CNI, and what have you done through your volunteerism?
In 2015, I was at a luncheon with a horticulture friend when he asked if I’d be interested in helping with the garden at the forthcoming Ronald McDonald House near Central DuPage Hospital. I was absolutely interested! As a Master Gardener, I knew my team would embrace both developing nature lessons and creating gardens.It didn’t take long for our group to hit the ground running with this opportunity. As the team leader, I created a timeline of what we hoped to accomplish in the House gardens:Year One – Plant the raised beds with families served by RMHC-CNI
Year Two – Create a butterfly garden
Year Three – Create a sensory gardenAll of these gardens were planted and visited by the families. And, in between seasons, I created projects suitable for all ages, abilities, and interests. We started one particular tradition three years ago called “veggiefest.” This initiative allows children to go to the vegetable gardens, pick ripe produce, and then make dinner for everyone at the House over the course of two hours!
- What is your favorite memory or experience from volunteering?
Throughout my years of volunteering there have been many incredibly touching stories and moments.On one particular winter day, an eight-year-old boy was excited about making bird feeders with pinecones, peanut butter, and birdseed. As we got to work, he asked us to wait because he wanted to get his friend. A few moments later, he returned with an 18 year old who indeed had become his friend thanks to their shared experience at the House!On another winter day, we were graced with the young parents of a baby who was in the NICU. There were no young patients at the House at that time, so I brought a sun gazing globe for the families to make for the sensory garden. I asked the mom to draw a design that we would adhere to the globe. It turned out she was quite an artist, and drew a beautiful bee.I asked her the significance of the bee, and she shared that she was afraid of bees. So, it was a symbol of the brave fight her baby was going through. It was an amazing story, and now that beautiful ball is in the House’s sensory garden for all to see!
This year our volunteerism has looked different due to COVID-19. We haven’t been able to be in the House, but this meant another surprise awaited me. I get plants donated from the College of DuPage greenhouse every May. This year they offered to drop the plants off at the House, but COVID-19 meant our volunteer programs were on hold. So, I talked to the House staff to see if they might want to help. Yes indeed – they showed up in work clothes and we planted together! This was something we had never done before, but it was most enjoyable.
Thank you Cheryl for your continued dedication and commitment, and for helping surround our House with the beauty of nature!