Friends of Karen provides emotional and financial support to the families of children with life-threatening illnesses. The charity provides invaluable aid to 1,400 children a year, in the New York metropolitan area, and covers an astounding $110,000 a month of family expenses.

Without the volunteers, the life-altering work Friends of Karen undertakes would not be possible. “Every volunteer helps make the world a better place”, says Denise Tredwell, the charity’s volunteer coordinator.

April is National Volunteer Month in the USA; it’s important to stop and value the vast number of people whose time and energy is put into improving lives in their communities.  Last year, Friends of Karen was helped by hundreds of volunteers, who dedicated more than 3,800 hours to helping the charity achieve its mission.

“Our volunteers come in all shapes and sizes”, says Denise. Among them are Girl Scouts who donate gifts and toys for sick children and their siblings; students from the local high school, whose ‘birthday in a bag’ gifts will make someone’s day; corporate employees who have organized mailings to increase awareness; and thoughtful retirees, who have wrapped back-to-school packages.

Judith Factor, Friends of Karen’s Executive Director is greatly aware of how indebted the charity is to such people: “Volunteers are the backbone of everything Friends of Karen does” she says. “Their commitment and compassion makes what we do possible”.

There appears to be a mutual dependence between volunteer and charity, which is wonderful to see. Tommy Hunt, bartender at The Blazer Pub, donates his yearly auction on St Patrick’s Day to Friends of Karen, so that “I can make a difference”.

A Volunteer Helps Make the World a Better Place

Volunteer Jane Hannon, a retired nurse, is fondly known as “Our Bear Lady” because she makes one-of-a-kind teddy bears for Friends of Karen children to cuddle.

Similarly, Richard and Pauline Klein decided to ‘adopt’ a Friends of Karen family one Christmas, instead of giving presents to everyone, and they have become increasingly involved. “Every time you’re there, you realize how fortunate you are to be able to help them”.

In the same way, Lynne Civita who worked in the finance industry now provides huge support to Friends of Karen. “Volunteering gives you a purpose and a good feeling of accomplishment” she says. “You get out of it what you give into it”.

The testimonies of passionate volunteers like these reveal how in the same way that Friends of Karen’s relies on its volunteers, the volunteers themselves rely on their charity work they do; the feeling of being able to make a difference to people’s lives is unlike no other.

Friends of Karen provides support to qualified families, without regard to race, religion, or national origin. For more information, or if you are interested in becoming a volunteer, visit

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Sophie Meadows started writing for Good News Shared during its early days, whilst studying English Literature at UCL. She loves theatre and collects ribbons.

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