While strolling the halls of Hammond-Henry Hospital during the summer months one might see teenagers engaging with Long-Term Care residents, pushing carts or assisting in a variety of other ways.

While strolling the halls of Hammond-Henry Hospital during the summer months one might see teenagers engaging with Long-Term Care residents, pushing carts or assisting in a variety of other ways.

The students, who all wear blue polo shirts, serve as volunteers. For many years, the summer students were known as “candy stripers” but now go by the term “junior volunteers.

In 2017, a total of 66 area students in grades 8 to 12 are serving as junior volunteers at the hospital. Students are from Geneseo, Atkinson, Cambridge, Annawan, Port Byron, Colon and Hillsdale.

Hospital staff members say there are a variety of reasons students volunteer, including a desire to learn about the medical and associated fields including physical therapy, lab, imaging, accounting, health information, IT and food service.

“I volunteered because I wanted to help people and also be exposed to the medical field — here I can do both,” said first-year volunteer Drew DeKeyrel.

Julie West, volunteer manager at the hospital, said she works to introduce the volunteers to Long-Term Care activities.

“Because many students have limited encounters with senior citizens, teens were initially given ideas to help start conversations with the residents. It doesn’t take long for the residents and junior volunteers to really start connecting and building their own relationships,” said West.

Though the teens have a large presence in Long-Term Care, they also help with landscaping, courier duties and preparation for Hammond-Henry Hospital Foundation events, among other jobs.

Much of the responsibility for organizing the junior volunteers falls to Kylie Buysse of Geneseo, a former junior volunteer and current AmeriCorps volunteer. She arranges what students will work where and on what days.

“I have enjoyed the opportunity of working with the junior volunteers and hope I have helped them encounter the same valuable experience I had,” said Buysse.