The Cougar Volunteer Spirit is Alive and Well in Charleston

This blog is a project by public relations students at the College of Charleston. Since its inception in 2004, the Cougar Volunteer Spirit has showcased dozens of students who give of their time, effort and hearts to helping those in need. They don't do it for recognition like this, but their stories need to be shared because of their admirable qualities of character and caring. "Be the change you want to see in the world," Mahatma Ghandi said. That's the Cougar Volunteer Spirit that roars through these pages. Click on the side photos to see the articles. See photos of the students who wrote the pieces at the end. Thanks!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

KARA CRONIN: Make A Wish & Special Olympics

Uplifting Others:
One Pair of Minnie Mouse Ears and Smile at a Time

By Hunter Smith

Kara dressed as Minnie Mouse at one of the Make A Wish send-offs

There is no denying that College of Charleston student Kara Cronin has a selfless love for volunteering. And with her contagious smile and spirit, it is no wonder that she has touched the lives of so many people. Kara is a freshman from Manchester, N.H., majoring in communication. She is also an active and dedicated member of CofC's Alpha Delta Pi sorority. Kara says her mother raised her to believe that the best way to feel good about herself is by uplifting others, and she has been volunteering for as long as she can remembr. Kara has assisted many organizations such as the Make A Wish Foundation, Special Olympics, Kristin's Gift Foundation, and the YMCA.

About Kara Cronin...

Hometown: Manchester, N.H.
Major: Communication
Expected Graduation: May 2014

What do you enjoy most about community service? The thing I enjoy most about community service is how much the people I'm assissting appreciate my help. There's no better feeling than knowing you made a difference, whether it be to one person or to an entire organization.

Most memorable volunteer experience? Definitely the Make A Wish send-offs where I dress up as Minnie Mouse and say goodbye to the kids as they leave for their Disney wishes.

What are you most proud of contributing to your organizations? I would have to say my enthusiasm towards the causes I work with. I was very close to a girl who died of cancer at age 15. Having witnessed her wish granted by the Make A Wish Foundation just before she lost her battle gave our family incentive to get on board and do whatever we could to enhance wishes for kids like Kristin. I can't tell you how many times I've donned the Mickey or Minnie Mouse costume and visited little kids who needed cheering up! Let's just say that more than a time or two my Facebook profile picture has featured me with a big head... and a polka dot bow and dress! Also, just after school began, and about one minute after receiving a CofC email message announcing a chapter of the Special Olympics was being started here, I emailed the president that I wanted to be a part of its beginning and its success. I guess I am proud that I acted so quickly instead of waiting for someone else to do so.

How have you personally benefited from volunteering? I think volunteering is in my blood. I never knew a time in my life that didn't involve community service of some kind. My mom, who definitely got it passed down from her dad before her, taught me through so many "family volunteering events" that the best way to feel good about yourself is to help lift others up. In fact, my earliest memories are of our Saturday morning visits to the local nursing home where my sister and I would crawl onto the laps of residents to sing little songs or just deliver hugs to those who didn't often have visitors. Volunteering has given me a better understanding of the different populations I've worked with and a deeper appreciation for what I am grateful for in my own life.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about volunteering? I would tell them it is all about taking the first step. There are so many opportunities out there, and the "feel good" goes both ways. Plus, you meet a lot of great people when you get involved, never knowing what it might lead to next.

How do you think your friends and family would describe you? My friends and family have always described me as someone with a quick smile, an easy personality, who is very comfortable to be around. They say I can blend well with all types of people...and I have to wonder if that is due in part to my my history of volunteering.

What are your plans for after graduation? I want to go into the communication field whether is be in PR, broadcast journalism or something of that nature. I would love to be involved with Special Education in some way as well. It's still early for me, so i'm keeping my options open.

More information on Kara's volunteer organization: The Special Olympics Club on campus just started this past semester and we were just officially recognized as a club right before Christmas break. I helped start up the club along with Emily Rogers, Emmie Clisham, Claire Niccolato and Garrett Porter and took on the positions of secretary and social events chair. Since we are just getting our feet off the ground, we haven't had a chance to do too much yet, but what we have done has been a blast. Two other officers and I recently attended a SOSC (Special Olympics South Carolina) conference where we got to interact with high school volunteers, board members, and the athletes themselves. CofC has the only club on the collegiate level in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia and now we're spreading the word to other schools in the area to get them involved as well. I think it's really cool that we can say we started it, especially since the athletes enjoy our involvement so much.

We had volunteers at the MidWinter games over spring break who all said that they had an incredible experience. We're currently working on setting up weekly or monthly activites for the athletes to play with our own CofC athletic teams and we're looking forward to holding a field day early next fall where all the athletes an volunteers can come out and play a variety of their favorite sports with new friends.

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