July Volunteer of the Month – Shikara Patel
Meet our volunteers! Each month, we highlight stand-out volunteers and how they support families. For July, meet Shikara Patel, who has made a big impact through her involvement in the College Representative Program.
- How long have you volunteered with Ronald McDonald House?
I first became involved with RMHC-CNI when I became a part of the College Representative Program earlier this year.
- Where do you typically volunteer, and what do you usually do?
My main involvement as a volunteer is a part of the College Representative Program. This allows me to complete both on-site and offsite projects to support the organization. One of the initiatives I love doing as a volunteer is participating in the Family Activity Program at the Ronald McDonald House near Lurie Children’s.Through this I lead painting activities in the evenings. Each session looks a little different, but I always bring a plethora of paints, paper, and paintbrushes and guide any kids that come to participate. We often venture away from what was planned though and just have fun creating anything that comes to our minds!
- Why did you first start volunteering with Ronald McDonald House, and what keeps you coming back?
My first interaction with Ronald McDonald House Charities occurred in Saint Louis, Missouri. I am a part of a university organization that connects students with children staying at their local Ronald McDonald Houses. I absolutely fell in love with the mission of the organization, and I loved meeting the kids and their families. I decided that when I went home for break, I would try to volunteer with RMHC in Chicagoland.Since starting with RMHC-CNI my appreciation for the children and their families that I meet has only skyrocketed. All the kids I interact with are filled with joy and simply spending time with them is enough to keep coming back.
- What is your favorite memory or experience from volunteering?
It’s difficult to pick a favorite because each time I do the Family Activity Program, it’s so unique and special. However, one recent session was so fun because I brought a couple friends with me to volunteer. It was so great because the kids got to meet more people and I think they loved the extra interaction. We not only painted, but we also played games with those who came to our activity. After we left, my friends and I could not stop talking about how amazing the kids were. I think it’s that feeling of gratitude and appreciation after each volunteer experience that keeps me yearning to continue being involved.
- What does it mean to you to donate your time to our organization?
Donating my time is a small feat for what I have gotten in return from RMHC-CNI. I am the oldest sister and cousin in my family, so I have grown up surrounded by children. Because of this, I have always had an appreciation for youth. Children tend to see the world with fresh eyes, and I always seem to learn so much from them.Having the opportunity to simply see the kids and their families at the Ronald McDonald House is something I will always be grateful for. Their ability to radiate joy even in the midst of difficulties is a lesson that I think everyone can benefit from. The families, kids, and staff I meet inspire me to live my life with gratitude and courage every day. It is a lesson that means more than any amount of time I could give.
- If someone was thinking about becoming a volunteer with our organization, what would you tell them about getting involved?
I would tell them to absolutely go for it! There are so many ways to volunteer, whether that’s cooking meals for the families or running donation stands at local events. Whatever you do, you will be helping real children and their families during their times of need. Even though I have been volunteering for a short amount of time, it has taught me so much and has connected me to some amazing people. It is an important role and those who volunteer also get the chance to be a part of a community committed to providing comfort and support to those who need it!
Thank you, Shikara for your contributions to helping families feel at home!