Growing up with St. Jude - A Story of Volunteerism to Beat Childhood Cancer

By Morgan Harper

If you're a part of the CBU community, there's a good chance you've had the pleasure of meeting Alison Allensworth. As an intern for the Career Services Office and a member of the Student Activities Council, Zeta Tau Alpha, Lasallian Collegians, and President's Ambassadors, Alison is a very well-known, friendly face at CBU. We all know students like that around campus, but what’s unique about Alison is that it also applies to the metro area. With all of her commitments here at CBU, you may wonder how this superwoman sophomore gets any time away from all of her duties on campus. Free time may be slim for Alison, but it seems she doesn't waste a moment of it. In addition to bouncing from meeting to meeting around campus, Alison is also an asset to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital's volunteer team.

It isn't often that you meet someone who’s found a place or purpose in life this early on, but Alison is definitely an exception. But how, exactly, does someone manage to get their foot in the door with one of the largest children's hospitals in the world at such a young age?

"St. Jude captured my attention really early on," Allison says. "I knew I had to be involved with this place from the first time I saw a St. Jude commercial onward."

Alison explains that her first volunteer work with St. Jude was simple. "I have a sister who is ten years older than me, and she was a part of the “Up 'Til Dawn” program, which was pretty huge at the time. I remember coming to campus with my sister when I was 9, running around and asking people for donations. I absolutely loved it."

A few years later, Alison was thrilled when she discovered a very prestigious program with St. Jude called Volunteens. "It's a super competitive program," she says. "I was scared to death to even fill out an application, but I knew it couldn't hurt to try." 

When she was just 16, Alison submitted her Volunteen application to St. Jude. And waited. And waited. And waited. Until finally, on her 17th birthday, she received her acceptance email.    

"Let me tell you, I just read it and started crying for like three hours," she laughs. "I was so incredibly excited about this awesome opportunity. I counted down the days until I could start."    

But during the three month span between her acceptance and her start date, Alison dealt with a constant flow of discouragement. "I remember everyone would tell me, 'St. Jude is such a sad place. You're going to cry when you get there,' blah, blah, blah." 

But that didn't hold Alison back. "In all honesty," she begins, "of course it's a sad place. But the kids are just so happy. Once you enter, you can see that St. Jude is a magical place. There are bright colors everywhere and smiley faces, and everyone truly is so happy and friendly."    

During my interview with Alison, she went on to describe more about the Volunteen Program. For four weeks, teenage volunteers have the opportunity to interact with patients for two hours a day. 

"I met the most amazing kids there. And played tons of Jenga," she says, smiling. "I didn't want it to end. I literally cried on my last day."    

Little did she know, however, that would be far from her last day at St. Jude. A year later, Alison was accepted into the same program, this time as a Teen Leader. 

"This is where it gets really cool," she pipes up. "They completely redesigned the program. This time, we went everyday for two weeks. We separated into different divisions, and I was in charge of the Support and Care. We learned to do stuff like inserting IVs and watched surgeries and still got to interact with the patients. It was awesome."    

As an emerging high school senior, Alison was running out of time to stay involved with programs like Volunteen, but that didn't stop her from staying with St. Jude.  When she was 18, Alison applied for the College Program and, once again, was accepted.    

"What I to do now is the Happy Cart, which is, by far, the best job. I get to visit patients in all different units and deliver little fun goodies, like arts and crafts. That is my absolute favorite. You ask me what I like to do more than anything, and I'll tell you, it's being Santa Claus once a week. I love to take them toys and just be the smiling face that they see when things are rough."    

Allison was also an intern at St. Jude, and she is extremely grateful she had the opportunity. 

"Last summer, the supervisor over the Happy Cart program called me and asked if I wanted to come on as an intern over the summer. Internships are really hard to come by in the Volunteer Services Department, so I was thrilled and honored that they asked me."    

Though Alison's internship ended last month, there is no doubt that her work at St. Jude is far from finished. 

"I'm expecting to graduate with a degree in psychology in 2018 and then go to grad school. My goal is to be a clinical psychologist at St. Jude."    

Until then, the world has high hopes for this inspirational and special soul, and there is no chance that St. Jude will ever lose sight of Alison's helping hands.    

Morgan Harper is a Junior English for Corporate Communications major at Christian Brothers University and a staff writer at the Galleon

Posted by Josh Colfer at 11:43 AM

The Galleon is curated and managed by Christian Brothers University, a Memphis-based university founded in the Lasallian tradition (a sect within the Catholic faith). Part of our founding mission is to uphold respect for all persons-regardless of political, religious, or social beliefs. As an institution, we take no stand on political matters; to do so would undermine our commitment to intellectual inquiry and thoughtful response to events taking place in our World by members of the CBU community.

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