When Judy Kelly, a mother, grandmother and retired school teacher first came to City of Hope for a consultation years ago, she had no idea then that her gift for engaging with her children and her students would continue in a new and important role years later — devoted volunteer brightening the lives of sick children.
“I’m a former kindergarten teacher, and I’ve also always had an interest in the medical field, so when I retired and decided to volunteer, I looked for opportunities involving kids and medicine,” says Judy. “I contacted City of Hope to see if they had volunteer opportunities, and that’s how I ended up in the hospital on the pediatric floor.”
Judy is at City of Hope without fail week after week. “I get very close to the kids, the little ones and the teenagers. And I’ve seen so many successes, so many kids who are cured.” And Judy has the unique ability to connect with young people of all ages. “I taught kindergarten for three years and then stayed home with mine, so I can relate to small children. And when I went back to work, I was a substitute teacher in high school. And I loved it – I love teenagers, I love the culture, the pep rallies, the football games!”
Although she travels the halls of the pediatric unit with cookies, week in and week out, it’s the company as well as the cookies that the young patients appreciate. “I’m sure the kids like the treats, and those goodies give me a reason to go into their rooms and start a conversation. I think they feel like I understand them.”
“People often ask me if it can be hard to work with sick children, but there’s no hard part for me. It’s heartbreaking that the kids have cancer, but I know that at City of Hope, they are in the best place for care for them,” adds Judy. “And I’m inspired. Despite what the children are facing, they are remarkably upbeat. I’m happy just being with the kids and their families, and when I can, bringing a little brightness into their room.”
Because of her positive experiences volunteering with the Department of Pediatrics at City of Hope’s Duarte, California, campus, Judy is also now a volunteer at the City of Hope community practice site in Upland, offering support and conversation to patients there. “I am spending time in the Upland clinic just connecting and talking to people. I think it’s a gift that I’m able to chat with anyone – I’ve made a lot of wonderful friends doing that! And It’s great that City of Hope is expanding into more communities and that I can be a part of that.”
When she’s not at City of Hope’s main campus or the Upland site, Judy spends her free time cooking, reading, watching movies and most important, spending time with her five granddaughters.
As a volunteer, Judy already gives so much to City of Hope, yet she decided that she still wanted to do more. “I got to the point where I needed to take my required minimum distribution from my IRA. I found out that I could donate my distribution directly to City of Hope and they would receive the entire amount because I wouldn’t pay taxes on it. My gifts support the pediatric program, of course” says Judy. “City of Hope and the pediatric program are so near and dear to my heart!”
Judy’s generous spirit inspires everyone at City of Hope, and the gifts she offers as a volunteer and through her financial support will continue to make an impact in the lives of City of Hope’s patients.