By Ms. Catherine Pauley (USAREC)
SACRAMENTO — It’s not always about recruiting for four Sacramento recruiters who usually spend their time looking for Future Soldiers.
In early August, the recruiters volunteered at the annual “When I Grow Up” event for children with heart conditions at U.C. Davis Medical Center’s Mind Institute in Sacramento. The event is devoted to helping children with heart conditions maintain normal lives despite frequently being hospitalized for their illnesses. Through the event, the children are encouraged to dream about the jobs and careers they’d like to hold when they grow up. Sponsored by Angels for Hearts Inc., the not-for-profit was started by Curtis and Patricia Kaufman whose daughter Kimberly, now 37, has congestive heart failure.
Sergeant Carlos Serra, Arden Station said, “The excitement on the kids faces when they see you was definitely a highlight. I realize they are normal kids despite all the adversity they have gone through.”
The children showed that even though they have medical issues with their heart doesn’t mean they can’t have big ones.
“We were giving out the Army Teddy bears and toward the end of the day we ran out,” Serra said. “This little boy pouted and put his head down when he realized he would not get a bear. Then a little girl who had one from earlier in the day came up to him and gave him her bear. It was a real heart-warming moment.”
Sacramento AMEDD recruiter Sgt. 1st Class Juvenal Villalobos, who volunteered and donated Beanie Army Teddy Bears to the cause said, “Events like these are self-gratifying and bring you closer to the community.”
Local TV news anchor Edie Lambert, one of the personalities who took part in the event, invited one boy, Ethan, who wants to be a news reporter when he grows up, to walk around with her cameraman to interview grown-ups, one of whom was Staff Sgt. Desmont Upchurch, Woodland Station.
“Watching Ethan interview Desmont about his military career was a special moment for me,” Villalobos said.
Staff Sgt. Andres Valencia, Arden Station, had a personal reason for volunteering.
“This past year, I took my daughter to Shriner’s Hospital for Children to get X-rays for her toes. Luckily, she had something which should not physically impair her from developing normally,” Valencia said. “[But] because of her condition, I was inspired to volunteer more often. I hope to bring a smile to more children.”
Valencia feels it’s important for Soldiers to volunteer at community events, especially those that touch children with medical conditions.
“Children can become inspired to look past their medical conditions and hope to do something extraordinary with their lives.”
The young participants, who ranged in age from toddlers to teens, visited booths and spoke with firefighters, police officers, doctors, nurses, teachers, chefs, television personalities, beauty queens, and Soldiers who answered questions about their careers.