Monica Zackeroff loves to play – and win – board games. But what she enjoys more is brightening the spirits of a sick child.
Zackeroff has been volunteering in various capacities at Akron Children’s Beeghly campus in Boardman for a year-and-a-half, and one of her assignments involves interacting with children in the inpatient rooms.
She does this by reading books, doing crafts or playing games to give their parents a break.
“Now I don’t ‘let’ them win a game, especially the older kids, but sometimes I’ll bend that rule if it means putting a smile on their face,” she said. “It can be difficult for some of these children when a stranger comes into their room and they’re not feeling all that well.”
Fellow volunteer Marijo Lendak also experiences the therapeutic value in children’s smiles, both for herself and the child.
“If you love children and love to make them smile, this is the place to be,” Lendak said. “My own children are 18 and 20 now, and they don’t like to be snuggled and do crafts anymore, so here is where I get my ‘kid fix.’ It’s a joy for me to be with children, help brighten their spirits and watch them learn.”
Both Zackeroff and Lendak started volunteering at Children’s Beeghly campus after retiring from their respective careers.
Zackeroff’s volunteer duties include processing mail, interacting with patients in the hospital and screening visitors.
“Volunteering here is a fulfilling and a rewarding experience for me,” Zackeroff said. “It’s also very heartwarming. Many of these children are hooked up to IVs, on oxygen and sometimes can’t get up out of their beds.”
Lendak was a literacy coordinator and first grade teacher for Struthers City Schools for 30 years before retiring to care for her mother, and she missed the daily interaction with children.
She works a 3-hour volunteer shift each week. She helps deliver interoffice mail, and goes in one night per week as a “cuddler” to hold and comfort babies in the neonatal intensive care unit.
“I go in after my family has dinner and starts watching sports on TV,” Lendak said. “At that time there might be a changing of shifts where nurses need an extra hand or a patient’s family members went home for the night, and I can go in and spend an hour or 2 with the babies.”
Volunteer opportunities abound at the hospital, and both Zackeroff and Lendak stress the importance of managing new volunteers’ expectations about the tasks they’ll be assigned and the realities of what they’ll be exposed to in the hospital environment.
“Volunteers need to be willing to work with all children, and be comfortable being around children with special needs or who require special care,” Lendak said.
Zackeroff stressed that all the tasks assigned to volunteers are vital, even if they’re not ultimately what the volunteer wants.
“All the duties are important, and the staff is very open to working within people’s interests,” she said. “Eventually the position you want will open up.”
To inquire about volunteer opportunities at our Beeghly campus, call 330-746-8350.