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St. Jude Stories: How Volunteer Coordinator Rosemarie Tabasco Gets Her Family Involved

people volunteeringThe prospect of volunteering can be intimidating, and trying to convince someone else to help out can be even more daunting. But despite the seemingly insurmountable challenge of getting everyone out of bed and to an event on a Saturday, volunteer coordinator Rosemarie Tabasco has had everyone from her husband to her grandkids involved in the annual St. Jude Walk/Run Philadelphia, a 5K event during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month that raises funds and awareness for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Here, she shares her experience and insight with getting family and friends excited about volunteering.

Building Real Relationships

Tabasco first got involved with St. Jude because of her mother, a long-time monthly donor to the hospital, which provides free treatment to children with some of the most aggressive forms of cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Out of appreciation for her mother’s commitment, a St. Jude representative began visiting her, and before long, a friendship blossomed.

“She really became a part of our family after a while. My mom really loved her,” says Tabasco. The experience inspired Tabasco to become the volunteer coordinator for St. Jude Walk/Run. Because of that relationship, she understands how important personal relationships are when getting people to volunteer and keep coming back.

“Personal engagement and the relationships you form are important,” says Tabasco. “I am part of a dynamic team that works closely together and supports each other at St. Jude Walk/Run. Each of us have an important role to play for the success of the event. The day of the event is always a great day for us because we’re all there for the same reason—to support the kids at St. Jude.”

Showing Them It’s for a Great Cause

Tabasco says volunteers are inspired to help because the work of St. Jude Hospital can be deeply moving to people. For example, after her mother passed away, Tabasco was cleaning out her mother’s house when she found a photo album with hundreds of pictures of St. Jude patients that she was sent over the years, after each donation. “In her mind, she felt she was helping all these children through her donation,” says Tabasco. “I always get people to support St. Jude because of the fact that patients never receive a bill for treatment, transportation, housing or food.”

People want to feel that their efforts are meaningful, so you should show them how their work directly impacts the greater good. When promoting your event, include stories of people in need who have received aid, and encourage potential volunteers to go online or in person to check out the charity’s good work. St. Jude patient families often attend the event, which drives home the importance of the work done by volunteers and participants.

“It’s a place that’s taking care of children who are sick,” says Tabasco. “That brings the family together—you’re thankful for all the children who’ve been saved and you’re thankful that the children are happy at the event. You’re just thankful that it exists, and that you’re able to support it.”

Playing to their Strengths

Once Tabasco had agreed to take on the position of volunteer coordinator for the newly created St. Jude Walk/Run, she needed to find people to staff the event. So, she turned to her family and friends. But instead of simply asking them to set out chairs or supervise, she found positions that would best engage each of them.

“In honor of my mom, my brother sponsored the event for a few years. My son is a great photographer, and we were looking for a photographer to take candid shots. He still takes the photos we put online,” says Tabasco. “My daughter and my daughter-in-law provide help with registration, while my husband helps with handiwork for the event.”

By keeping in mind their interests, Tabasco finds roles for people that play to their strengths, which both creates a better event and excites volunteers.

Making the Event Enjoyable for Everyone

Tabasco tries to make St. Jude Walk/Run a fun day for everyone involved, including the volunteers. Fun activities like face painting are offered throughout the day, and volunteer groups are encouraged to dress up, which delights young attendees.

“Last year we had Heroes Alliance and Disney princesses come, and they took pictures with the kids,” says Tabasco. A great venue also adds to the fun.

“We host the event at the Philadelphia Zoo, and once the event is over, volunteers and participants are welcome to stay at the zoo the whole day if they choose,” says Tabasco. The bottom-line—If you find ways to make the event sound appealing and convenient to volunteers, they’re much more likely to show up and keep coming back.

Ready to volunteer in the next St. Jude Walk/Run? To find out how you can help, click here.