From the Heart

Published on November 11th, 2022 by Christina Echegaray.

Someone once told me that you have to learn to volunteer from your heart, not just in your head. You can’t just talk about it. You have to feel it and have a desire to make an impact.

Over the years, it has been a joy to volunteer for Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in many different ways.

I still can remember my first volunteer role. It was selling papers on Palm Sunday to raise money for the Junior League Home for Crippled Children, a home for children recovering from polio and other diseases. The papers told stories of the children served throughout Middle Tennessee who were cared for at the home.

The paper sale was something I grew up doing. I remember going door to door in neighborhoods all across the area trying to hit every door before families had gone to church. Most people wanted to give because everyone had some kind of connection with someone who’d been treated at the home.

In 1923, the founding Junior League members convinced the Standard Oil Company to let them use a house at Ninth Avenue and Monroe Street ─ rent-free of course. Doctors donated their services, the Junior League women provided everything else, and the Junior League Home for Crippled Children was born.

As I got older, I started to volunteer with the home more. I helped with lunches, organizing volunteers for transport, reading to children and bringing them outside to play. My involvement only progressed from there. We worked with the medical community at every level to ensure that not only were we providing the best possible clinical care, but that we also addressed all the unique aspects of supporting ill children and their families. This often meant providing insight into areas of day-to-day care that had tremendous impact. The women of the Junior League built a reputation as trusted advisers in this unprecedented endeavor at a time when that was exceptionally uncommon.

It was always very rewarding to feel the difference you could make with your presence and your support.

We tried to create as much of a home-like atmosphere as possible for these sick children who needed us. Everything we did was done with love and care. We didn’t know then that the home would go on to become a hospital and eventually evolve into what is known today as our beloved Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

I was serving as treasurer of the Junior League when the home moved into the children’s hospital-within-a-hospital at Vanderbilt. I attended every meeting where the voices of parents and volunteers were heard. It always felt like we were making a real difference in those meetings. That’s where we fought for sleeper chairs for parents and telephones in the rooms for them to talk to other family members. We were there to be the voice of the children and their families. That is when I saw the true impact volunteers could have.

Over the years, it has been an honor to give back to help children at Monroe Carell through the Junior League of Nashville, Friends of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, Iroquois Steeplechase and Canby Robinson Society. These organizations do such great work to give back.

I’m thankful that the passion for giving was instilled in me at such a young age. I always believe the younger the better when it comes to introducing volunteering. That passion can be fostered throughout a lifetime, and the impact can be felt for years and years.