Volunteers like Jean Gronewald and rita Schwarting are part of the heart and mission of Children’s Therapy Center. In celebration of Volunteer Month, we asked them to share what it is about CTC that keeps them volunteering year after year.
When did you first get involved with CTC?
rita: I’ve always really believed in giving back to our community. About 17 years ago, CTC’s development director came to speak at our church. I was so impressed that I asked for a tour! The passion of the therapists I met was what hooked me – the joy in the building was palpable.
Jean: I got involved through my daughter, Laura, who is a physical therapist at CTC’s Tacoma location. When Laura was 13, she volunteered with (co-founder) Sue Hudson helping her with the hippotherapy program. Years later, after graduating from the University of Washington, Laura attended CTC’s auction and decided to go work for them. I’m known as “Laura’s mom” around here!
You both have been extremely involved in CTC’s annual Dinner & Auction. What makes this event different from other auctions you’ve attended?
Jean: The staff has always been very involved, which makes it feel like more than just a fund raiser. CTC really celebrates its staff. There’s so much longevity and stability there.
rita: The auction is a “family raiser.” We focus on the families we serve. One of my favorite auctions was the year we shared Patrick’s story. He was born to a single mom and his doctors said he would probably never do much of anything. Then his foster family brought him here, and he eventually became an Eagle Scout and got to run with the Olympic torch.
Jean: We really do develop long term relationships with families. CTC isn’t like a doctor’s office, where you go for a visit or two and get better – many of the children CTC serves will continue needing services for most of their lives. That’s why the family relationships CTC builds are so special.
What brings you back to this particular volunteer job – when there are so many other opportunities from other worthy organizations out there – year after year?
rita: Why do I stay involved? I’ll give you a thousand reasons, but it’s all because of the staff and our mission. It’s the culture. CTC has figured out how to hire people that fit, and that’s in spite of all the huge growth we’ve had over the past several years. And I also appreciate the impact that we make in the lives of the children that we serve and their families. Our staff turns a scary diagnosis into “let’s see what’s possible with your child.” It’s about hope and support.
Jean: Once you come and see the transformation of a family, that’s what hooks you – when you see the commitment that these families have made. Many are living with this (special needs) for the long term. They are “learning to live well when life is hard.”