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State Honoree

Sarah Austin

Maryland

founded the first teen volunteer hospice program in the state of Maryland. While playing bingo with residents at a local nursing home, Sarah met a woman who was dying of cancer. The woman told Sarah about a hospice program and the positive, caring support hospice volunteers had given both her family and herself. “When I called the next day, Hospice said they had no volunteer opportunities for anyone under the age of eighteen,” said Sarah. “Luckily, I didn’t accept that answer.” After several more phone calls, Sarah met with the organization’s volunteer coordinator, who agreed to help Sarah develop her own program, called “Helping Hands.” Sarah then contacted all the social studies teachers at her school, explaining her idea and asking for help in recruiting student volunteers. After completing six hours of training, teen volunteers began visiting selected hospice patients and their families, offering understanding, support and practical assistance with lawn work, errands and cleaning. Sarah’s “Helping Hands” program has been a successful part of her school’s community service outreach for over three years. Sarah also speaks to students at other schools in her area, explaining the “Helping Hands” idea and talking about making a difference. “People often ask me how I can deal with dying patients on a daily basis,” she said. “I usually say that I will want someone to be there for me one day, but these people need me now.”