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Volunteer Program Offers Support to Parents of Hospitalized Kids

Bailey McCormick

Jimmy’s Friends provides emotional social support for parents who have hospitalized children, which can be an extremely stressful time.

Jimmy’s Friends founder Brooke Hildebrand Clubbs is an instructor in the department of communications studies at Southeast Missouri State University. She developed the plan for Jimmy’s Friends while working on her master’s degree. The program now has about 30 volunteers.

“I looked into organizations that provide social support to the families of children that are hospitalized and I found one example that had been started by St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital,” Clubbs said. “They had a program called Helping Hands and it provided respite care for those families. So I set about writing for my capstone how a student volunteer organization could do that same thing.

“I wrote a business plan for how I could start one at Southeast and I got an A on my project. Then I parlayed that in a grant proposal with the Missouri Foundation for Health and when I was awarded the mini-grant, I set about starting the organization at Southeast.”

The volunteers provide services for families of neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and children’s ward patients at St. Francis. The most popular services they provide is called “coffee break.” Six nights a week volunteers take individual coffee, tea and hot chocolate orders from the families. Then they go back to the family lounge and they prepare all of those things. Clubbs said some of the grant money went to the purchase of a  Keurig so they could make those individual orders.

“It sounds like a really simple thing, but it’s a free cup of coffee that the family doesn’t have to leave their child’s side to go get and it also provides a chance for adult interaction,” Clubb said. “Just being able to talk to another adult about non medical stuff for even just a few minutes can really provide a little bit of stress relief.”

Other services that Jimmy’s Friends provide include sibling care for siblings of NICU children and a scrapbooking session called “Project Light” for parents.

“That’s just a chance to focus on the regular parts of having a new baby, you know, documenting their pictures and writing different little facts about them. This helps provide a little bit of a creative outlet as they’re going through this stressful time,” Clubbs said.

Jimmy’s Friends is named for Clubb’s dad who passed away four years ago. When he was a small child, he was called Jimmy.

“When he was a little kid, he had asthma and spent a lot of time in the hospital and his parents really struggled a lot with that,” Clubb said. “Even though we’ve made great medical advances and you don’t spend as long in the hospital when they have asthma like my dad did, we haven’t advanced that far in helping the family. So my hope is that this organization would sort of bring that social support into 2014.”

Many Jimmy’s Friends volunteers are going home at the end of semester so they are looking for more. For more information or to sign up to volunteer, e-mail Clubbs at bejimmysfriends@gmail.com.  

Bailey McCormick was an intern reporter for KRCU in 2014.