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About Our Volunteers

Bedside Buddy - Art, Music & Massage

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Miami Children's Hospital is blessed with many outstanding volunteers. Here you can meet a few of our dedicated Bedside Buddy volunteers.

 
 
Knots of Hope Brings Creativity to the Bedside

Priscilla Suzal-Wright is a great asset to the volunteer program at Miami Children’s Hospital. Priscilla has volunteered in the MCH playroom since October 2008 and has completed over 200 hours. Priscilla brought a new program to the hospital called Knots of Hope. The Knots of Hope program provides our patients the opportunity to create their own personal bead jewelry. Knots of Hope provides the volunteers the materials needed to run this program. Priscilla has been instrumental in building and maintaining this program and has recruited her friends to make the commitment. It began with monthly playroom visits and now Knots of Hope is offered weekly as part of the Bedside Buddies program. The Bedside Buddies is a program for patients who are unable to leave their rooms. Priscilla has brought and continues to bring smiles and distract patients with this wonderful program.
 


Carlos Pereira
 
Venezuelan artist, Carlos Pereira, has been teaching art and conceiving his celebrated commissioned murals, as well as creating original art works on canvas, ceramics, wood, paper and other media for over 15 years. MCH is proud of the colorful murals that he has created throughout the hospital. Carlos decided to become a volunteer with the MCH Art Classes Project when he realized that he could expand the benefits of art to patients and their families, in a more personal and dynamic way. “I believe artistic expression can help to improve the quality of life, self-empowerment, relaxation, and best of all, to receive the gift of a happy moment,” said Carlos. “I have been drawing and painting since an early age; my vocation became very clear after trying many other activities and hobbies. Creating and painting for Miami Children’s Hospital offers me the opportunity to re-connect with my inner child in a powerful way. Executing these art projects in front of so many people, especially children, allows me to receive instant feedback, verifying once again the fantastic power of art in our lives.” “We are delighted to have Carlos participating in our volunteer program, and sharing his love of art with our patients,” stated Lynn Heyman, Director of Community and Volunteer Resources
 

 
Nalia Phillips
 
Naila Phillips is a Bedside Buddy volunteer. Originally from St. Lucia, Naila has been in Miami for the past nine years. She has two younger sisters and has been a counselor for summer camps. A friend recommended MCH to Naila as a great volunteer opportunity, knowing how much she loved being with children.

“I love volunteering because the children may be in a bad mood when I first visit them, but then they start to smile and don’t want me to leave,” comments Naila. She feels very needed and finds the staff and parents very grateful for her Bedside Buddy visits.

Naila would like to get her master’s in biomedical science with a career in the dental field. Her goal is to attend Howard University. In her leisure time, Naila enjoys family time, being with friends, reading and traveling.
We hope to have Naila volunteer with us at MCH for as long as she is available. She has made a difference to the children!
 

 
Soledad Galindo
 
For the past two years, University of Miami student Soledad Galindo has been volunteering in our Bedside Buddy Program. Soledad has been instrumental in the success of UM’s Project Sunshine volunteer group, acting as president, and doing an excellent recruiting job getting UM students involved in MCH.Born in Ecuador, Soledad attended school in Orlando and made the decision to attend UM because she was interested in a medical career. Graduating in December, Soledad will have a double major: biology and religion. She is Vice President of the Biology Honor Society, and works part time in the Biology Department.
 
For the two years we have known Soledad, she has been completely committed to MCH. She loves to interact with the children, and derives a great deal of satisfaction knowing that the staff, parents and children enjoy her visits. “I love it when the kids laugh and ask me not to go,” comments Soledad. After graduation, Soledad will take one year off and volunteer in hospitals and free clinics throughout Ecuador. Until graduation, we are very grateful to Soledad for sharing her time with us.
 
   
Amanda Alvarez

When you first meet Amanda Alvarez, you cannot help but smile. Amanda is an amazing young lady with a big smile and bright eyes. She is one of our Bedside Music Volunteers, and brings her outstanding voice to the children every week.  Amanda's passion is music and children. It is delightful to see how the children react to her music and how much of a difference it makes each week when she volunteers. Her beautiful voice has drawn attention to the nursing staff and visitors and is well received by everyone who has the opportunity to listen to her. Currently a student at FIU, Amanda has hopes of becoming a Nurse Practitioner.  Volunteering has helped ease the stress of school and studying. "When I leave Miami Children's Hospital, I see the world in a different way. Seeing a child's face light up in a smile when I sing makes my day," she said.
 
Elisha Augsburger, Child Life Specialist, 3NE, says, "When Amanda sings, she has a way of connecting with kids of all different ages at the hospital. Through her music, she is able to involve not only patients, but families and friends who are visiting.  We look forward to her coming in every week." The Community and Volunteer Resource (CVR) department currently has other volunteers providing Bedside Music: Irene Inatty, Jeff Miller and Fryda Guedes. Virginia Detzner is training to become a Bedside Music Volunteer. CVR is proud of their Bedside Music Volunteers and applauds their efforts!
 

An Evening with the Arts
 
On May 14, the Community and Volunteer Resource Department hosted “An Evening with the Arts,” showcasing the creative talents of South Miami Middle School students. We wanted to give these adolescents an opportunity to see the hospital first hand and get to know us and their community a little more, while at the same time, allowing us to get a more insight into today’s youth.
 
Mr. Herb Summers, the art teacher from this magnet school, worked with his students to provide us with 27 original pieces of art. The framed art includes digital photography (self-portraits) and etchings and will remain on display directly off the main lobby through next spring.
 
The students, who are 13 and 14 years old, attended the art show with their parents, friends and teachers. There was also a wonderful turn-out by appreciative MCH staff, and approximately 150 guests. The CVR Department would like to thank the following staff members for their support in making this event so successful: Roumiana Katzarkov, Pablo Suarez, Alex Gil, Michele Molina, Frank Balbuena, Marcia Diaz de Villegas, Cynthia Gutierrez, Lauren Garcimonde and Steven Llanes.

We hope everyone will take notice and enjoy the beautiful art work of these young artists. The CVR Department also has brochures with the artists’ names, ages, and thoughtful comments, which are also available for you to pick up.
 

  
Irene Zion
 
Approximately three years ago, volunteer Irene Zion came for her interview. With a background in education, we know that Irene would be a good match for the Bedside Buddy Program. Originally from Baltimore, Irene has lived in Italy, New York, Tennessee and Illinois. Irene taught high school in Harlem and the Bronx, and for 23 years was a teacher in Champagne, Illinois. When her husband retired from the Navy, Irene wanted to move somewhere sunny and humid...what better place than Miami!
 
Every Tuesday, not only does Irene visit children with the Bedside Buddy Cart, but also brings her own activities for entertainment. Very upbeat and enthusiastic, Irene is always smiling, friendly and outgoing. She loves playing with the children and making them laugh. It is very satisfying to her, to know that as a volunteer, she is able to distract a child from illness, even though temporarily, through her visits. Irene also finds the parents very grateful, and says all of the MCH staff is very responsive to her visits.

In her leisure time, Irene enjoys movies, traveling, and reading, but adds, "Most of all, I love the rain and thunderstorms." Welcome home, Irene!
 

 
Victoria Del Rio
 
Victoria Del Rio is a member of our volunteer "Comfort Crew," a group of licensed massage therapists who offer massages to parents and family members. Victoria has been a volunteer since September 2005, and comes in weekly to lessen the anxiety of parents, many of whom have been here for many days or weeks. Always calm and serene, and with a smile on her face, Victoria goes up to PICU, and visits other units if there is a special request. Before MCH, Victoria came to Miami via Cuba and New Jersey. She held a prestigious job in the banking industry in Miami, before retiring as a Vice President. Choosing to keep herself busy after retirement, Victoria became a licensed massage therapist, which she finds deeply satisfying. At MCH, she comments that, "people reach out to me when I walk
down the halls to tell me how much I have helped." She loves the feeling of being able give a brief respite to the families, and to see them smile as their energy is renewed. For relaxation, Victoria enjoys spending time with her family, cooking, visiting ethnic restaurants, reading and traveling. At the moment she is busy helping with preparations for her son's wedding, but is still managing to find time to volunteer every week. We appreciate all the time Victoria is able to give us, and thank her for her dedication to MCH.
 
 
Amy Wong
 
Our Bedside Buddy Program is very happy to have volunteer Amy Wong visit our patients. Amy has been a volunteer since last summer and spends time with the Bedside Buddy Cart visiting the children and engaging them in activities on a weekly basis.

Born in Miami, Amy attends UM, and is focusing on a career as a medical examiner. It is her wish to attend Nova Southeastern University for medical school, but for now, she will continue to be a Bedside Buddy. Always upbeat and smiling, it is a pleasure to see Amy every week. It is easy to see how much she enjoys her volunteer work!

Amy enjoys her volunteer work because she considers it important, and feels she is making a difference. The children enjoy playing games and doing arts and crafts activities with Amy, and the parents are also very appreciative when she visits. Amy always leaves the hospital feeling she has had an impact and is satisfied she has made a child smile.

Due to her heavy course load and the demands for pre-med,she does not have much leisure time. We are fortunate to have Amy organize her busy schedule so she can remain a volunteer.
 

Jeffrey Miller 
 
Originally from New York, volunteer Jeffrey Miller ha s spent much of his time in Chicago doing both management consulting and family therapy work. He moved to Miami almost two years ago, and wanting to feel connected to his new community, Jeff made the decision to work with children, and chose Miami Children's Hospital to begin his volunteer career.

Volunteering on 2East, Jeff visits patients on a weekly basis. He brings an added bonus to the volunteer program, because he brings and plays his keyboard and gets the children to engage in sing-a-longs. Music is great therapy, as well as a distraction, and the patients and families thoroughly enjoy Jeff's visits. If the child is able to get out of bed, he or she will "help" Jeff play the keyboard or ukulele. Along with volunteering, Jeff enjoys traveling, rollerblading, computer games, and of course, music is a great part of his life. We are very grateful for the time Jeff devotes to MCH. It is a joy to see him every week and have him in our volunteer program.
 

 
Stephanie Binef 
 
Teen Stephanie Binef volunteers once a week with the Art Cart. Stephanie attends St. Brendan High School, where her favorite subject is English. Stephanie is involved in many activities, including serving on the student council and as secretary of the senior class,
the English Honor Society and cheerleading. Stephanie heard about our program through a classmate who was volunteering and who recommended it to her. Also, as a past patient, Stephanie remembered the difference it made for her, when volunteers came to visit. Interested in a career in the medical field, Stephanie knew this would be the perfect setting for her to volunteer. The Art Cart volunteers visit doctor’s offices, and waiting room areas such as Radiology, the Emergency Department and the Outpatient Center. Volunteers play board games, read, face paint, and distribute stickers and sports cards to children who are waiting for their appointments. Stephanie comments, “Interacting with the kids and making them happy gives me a lot of satisfaction.” She also states that the anxiety level for the parents is lessened when they see their children smiling and occupied. When not at school or volunteering, Stephanie loves to be with family and friends, and enjoys listening to music. However, her love of children is her top priority.
 

 
Alexandra Stroerger
 
The CVR Department has been fortunate to have Alexandra Stoerger volunteer for MCH since she was a high school student in 1997. Alexandra began volunteering in our Teen Program at the age of 14 for her community service hours. In two weeks, Alex will be graduating from UM, and with over 2,100 hours of service, she plans to continue to volunteer.

When she began to volunteer, Alex’s goal was to be with patients. Over the past years, she volunteered with the Art Cart, Information Desk, Hospitality Cart, and Bedside Buddies, which she is still doing. Along the way, impressed with her reliability, skill, and ability to interact with people of all ages, the hospital offered her a job to work on the Information Desk, which she accepted.

Despite her work and school schedule, Alex has always managed to help with various activities the Volunteer Department is involved with: holiday gift wrapping, KAPOW, fund raiser at the Parrot Jungle and the Sock Hop for Radio Lollipop, and face painting for annual holiday parties for Oncology and the CICU.

Alex will be graduating with a degree in psychology and a minor in German, and will be seeking full time work in the field of psychology. Her original plan was to major in journalism, but her volunteering at MCH changed her career goals. Continued good experiences in volunteering helped Alex create a healthy balance between school and work. “I really love volunteering,” comments Alex, “and plan on continuing,” and for that we are very grateful! 
 


Michelle Denton
 
For the past two years, UM student Michelle Denton has been volunteering at MCH in our Bedside Buddy Program. It is Michelle’s job to visit children at their bedside and engage them in arts and crafts, board games, card games and storytelling.

Born in Homestead, Michelle volunteered in high school by tutoring for the FCAT and also had fun volunteering at the Homestead Racetrack. At UM, Michelle will graduate with a major in biology and a minor in marketing and religion. Michelle became familiar with MCH when her brother was a patient. She thought this would be a great facility to devote time to and she has enjoyed being here on a weekly basis. When doing the Bedside Buddy Program, Michelle loves the interaction with the children, and finds parents are very relieved to see her.
“Sometimes the parents like to play the games, too,” she comments. The children respond enthusiastically to Michelle when she comes into their room with the activity cart, typically asking for a game of Uno or Crocodile Dentist.

When not in school or volunteering, Michelle enjoys movies, Starbucks and baseball. She considers herself a big sports fan, and attends as many Marlins games as possible.

The good feeling and personal satisfaction Michelle derives from volunteering, is what keeps her returning every week, and we are very happy with her participation in our Volunteer Program.