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Volunteering changes lives for the better

Fort Dodge teenager explains why this very American activity is important

April 17, 2011
Messenger News

Last year, nearly 63 million Americans gave of themselves through service and volunteering. Their compassion is a testament to the generosity of the American spirit. These volunteers exemplify the quintessential American idea that we can change things, make things better and solve problems when we work together.

I have found volunteering to be very rewarding and have committed my time to a number of organizations including PICA - Pride in Community Appearance - and the American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Webster County. When I was 8 years old, my life was turned upside down when my mother was diagnosed with cancer. She died from her long battle with cancer when I had just turned 12. Volunteering had become a refuge of strength during many of those very challenging and sad years. Through volunteering, I have developed some lifelong friends of all ages that I can easily talk to about anything from lifelong goals to times of hard change.

For the longest time I believed that my goal in life was to change the world. Once I started to emerge myself in volunteer projects, I realized that it was also influential and beneficial for me as well. Sometimes when life seems to be doom and gloom I discovered that by going out into the community and helping others it would light up a smile inside of others, including myself. I love the enthusiasm from the people around the community and the feeling I get when people tell me that I made a difference in their community or life.

At about age 8, my grandfather introduced me to PICA. My Grandpa Field has always stressed the importance of hard work and giving back to the community. I have thoroughly enjoyed working beside him and trying to meet the goals he has set out to accomplish. PICA was a way my grandfather and I could bond and create a closer relationship than before. When I was younger, I seemed apprehensive around the retired older people, but once I began PICA, it was like having a completely new set of grandparents who loved and cared about me. I appreciate how the hardworking PICA volunteers really care about improving the community and appearance of Fort Dodge. My volunteer hours with PICA exposed me to a lot of wonderful mother role models who supported and helped guide, nurture and encourage me with their words of wisdom.

Working with The American Cancer Society has been an entirely different experience for me. I learned to deal with the grief of my mom's death in a healthier way by volunteering with this organization. I find it sad, yet encouraging when I see and meet so many people who have been touched by cancer and who have had similar experiences and feelings as me. It is a true blessing to be around people who not only share mutual feelings of loss, but who also have incredible empathy and hope for those who have been touched by this disease. The American Cancer Society volunteers are working together to help people stay well, get well, find cures and fight back against cancer. The Relay For Life of Webster County volunteers genuinely welcomed me and loved to hear my new ideas for Relay.

My favorite part of Relay For Life is when we light the luminaries at the during the Relay Luminaria Ceremony and we read off the names of the people who have passed away or who are cancer survivors. Every year I listen proudly for my mama's name because I feel at that moment I still have not given up her fight. I enjoy listening to other people's stories and feel encouragement from those who are farther along in the grief process than I am. Cancer is an ugly thing. People can choose to be sad all the time, or they can choose to reach out, make a difference and do something about it. I definitely agree with The American Cancer Society Relay T-shirt motto: "Celebrate, Remember and Fight Back." Being a part of this volunteer group has taught me that a person does not have to go through hard times alone; a person can find strength in those around them who can relate and have gone through a similar experience.

The American Cancer Society listens, shares, heals and nurtures a spirit of hope and a culture of caring through voluntarism. As a global grassroots force of 3 million volunteers, we fight for every birthday threatened by every cancer in every community.

To learn more about how you can saves lives while fulfilling your own through volunteering, visit their Web site at

Through volunteering organizations or projects, a person can develop a sense of family within a community. Volunteering helps a person develop a more positive outlook on life. It does not seem like hard work if a person gets out of their comfort zone and tries socializing; pretty soon, the job is finished. Volunteer at any age, it is never too late to meet some pretty awesome people who you will remember for a lifetime.

Please join me, along with the hundreds of volunteers and participates at this year's American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Webster County on June 24 at Dodger Stadium beginning at 6 p.m. To learn more about Relay, or to register as a participant, log onto:

Natalie Halverson is an active volunteer for the American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Webster County and PICA - Pride in Community Appearance - and is currently a junior at the Fort Dodge Senior High School.

For more information on how you can get volunteer with the American Cancer Society contact Liddy Hora at or 576-7975.

To learn more about volunteering with PICA please contact Jan or Phyllis Wilson at or call 576-0296.



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