Face of Defense: Airman Exemplifies Volunteer Spirit
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 2008 An airman at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., is exemplifying the volunteer spirit with a hospital visitation program he hopes to expand bases nationwide.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Jewell Hicks, a communications noncommissioned officer with the 375th Communications Squadron at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., launched a program so airmen could spend their off-duty time visiting sick children at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Ranken Jordan Pediatric Children’s Hospital in Missouri.
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When a childhood friend died of leukemia, Air Force Staff Sgt. Jewell Hicks vowed to someday find a way to help children cope with long hospital stays. Now he’s living up to that promise with the “Airman for Children” program.
Hicks, a communications noncommissioned officer with the 375th Communications Squadron, launched the program so airmen could spend their off-duty time visiting sick children at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Ranken Jordan Pediatric Children’s Hospital, both in nearby Missouri.
Twice per month, the volunteers visit each hospital, where they play games, read books, decorate cookies and work on arts and craft projects with the young patients, many suffering from serious injuries and illnesses.
“Basically, we do anything we can to take their minds off their illnesses and what they’re going through,” Hicks said. “For the hour or hour and a half that we are there, we want to take their minds off that.”
Hicks said the children love the program, looking forward to every visit. But it’s the volunteers, he said, who get the most out of it.
“It’s very rewarding,” he said. “Every time you go out there, it gives you a sense of accomplishment, knowing that you’ve helped somebody else and made a difference in somebody’s life.”
Now Hicks is setting his sights on expanding the program to other military installations. The Navy plans to launch its own “Sailors for Children” program later this month at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., he said.
“I would love to expand this program Defense Department-wide. That’s my goal, and that’s what I’m determined to make happen,” Hicks said. “This program is all about giving back, and it portrays the military in a very positive way in the community.”