The Empty-Nester

After working for Mary Free Bed in pediatrics without kids of my own, I always wished I had held that job as a parent. I would have had a different level of empathy for the children and the families that I served.

I went on a week-long mission trip with my church, serving at Give Kids the World, and a few months later I heard a radio advertisement about Children’s Healing Center. I immediately knew I had to look into this place. As a new empty-nester, looking for volunteer opportunities, this seemed to be a good fit. Being that I am a Therapeutic Recreation Therapist, with a love of children and the vast majority of my professional experience in pediatrics, I started volunteering at the Center in September of 2015.

When I had young children, we experienced an unexpected accident that would eventually lead me to the Center.  Three weeks after my fourth child was born, my 5-year-old son ruptured his pancreas in a biking accident. After eight long weeks of managing his 28-day hospitalization- four days in intensive care and managing his IV feedings and IV medications at home all while parenting a seven and three year old, as well as a newborn- I became much more compassionate for the struggles many families go through around sick and injured children. Mind you, I also had the support of family and many friends with which I never could have imagined that time in my life without their incredible care and empathy for my family. The deepened relationships with family, friends and medical caregivers was definitely a positive that came out of this challenging experience.

Fast forward 23 years, I recently reconnected with my son’s favorite nurse for a cake decorating program here at the Center. This brought back memories of the people who made an impact in my life. She was such an inspiration to me in her ability to care for my son medically, in such a non-threatening, heartfelt, playful way. The empathy and time she spent with me helped to further my passion and how I relate to and support struggling children and families.

“This has helped me define what I truly value in life, being in relationship.”

Giving back, is where it’s at for me. We don’t always know what impact we will have on others through our ability to be vulnerable and open to connection. It’s taking that risk, that gave me this opportunity to work full time at the Center. It was making some valueable connections with families while volunteering at CHC that lead me to bow out of the interview process for another job and reach out to Amanda, to share my passions for both the Center’s mission and the children and families we serve. My heart is humbled daily as I see the true meaning of connection in the relationships I see being built between children, parents, staff and families. The openness to share and connect is how we build community and support one another.

Cheryl Raguse
Membership & Referral Coordinator