My name is Lex Russ, and I joined the center in November of 2020. I started off volunteering on Monday nights after being encouraged to check out CHC by my professors and my Aunt Dawn.

As a Recreational Therapy student, I felt overwhelmed by the amount of fieldwork opportunities, but kept finding myself drawn towards the center. CHC has something that I had been looking for a long time – a safe space where kids could just be kids! The benefits were apparent the second I started volunteering. As someone who deals with immunosuppression, I could not believe that this amazing opportunity was right here in West Michigan and could not wait to start helping with programming! In May of 2021 I was honored to begin my fieldwork experience under the direction of Cheryl Raguse.

I was so excited to be able to plan and lead the summer programs at CHC for the 2021 season. Volunteering the season before the summer helped tremendously and helped prepped me for all of the busyness of the summer. I was able to be creative and think about plans that would benefit our members and their experiences. As a kid, I felt that loss of childhood because of my chronic illnesses and constant medical treatments. Kids that deal with these invasive medical treatments are expected to be so much more mature than their peers. At CHC, I wanted to make sure that we provided beneficial therapeutic techniques that focused on facilitating that safe space for the kids to be able to let loose and focus on just having fun!

Program planning became second nature to me thanks to all of the amazing staff members at the center. Their feedback was truly so amazing, and so positive! I was able to constantly work not only on my career goals, but my personal goals as well. Being able to be an advocate and mentor to these kids was a dream come true. I was able to tap into my inner kid and find activities that would engage the kids physically and creatively. My favorite part of program planning was watching the kids participate in all of these activities together. To watch them grow throughout the summer individually, and grow positive relationships with one another was incredibly amazing! I was so honored to get to lead and facilitate these relationships for the entire summer season.

I will say my favorite camp to plan and run this summer was definitely Fan Fair Week. I love anything arts based, and to be able to share music and art activities on a deeper level was so much fun! I loved being able to pull in my ukulele and write silly songs with the kids. All of the art projects, all though based off of an example, were so unique and a reflection of each individual kid’s imagination!

I will never forget my time at CHC! I am so honored that I got to have the experience, and am so excited to take the knowledge I gained from everyone at the center with me along my journey towards becoming a Recreational Therapist. I am planning on continuing to volunteer at CHC for the fall season, as well as participating in the AYA program. I am so excited to watch the center continue to grow!