It was Labor Day in 2010, and Christy was dressing her children, 7-year-old Aidan and 4-year-old Devin, for a neighborhood picnic. Suddenly, Christy noticed that Aidan had left the room and was lying on the floor in the hallway. “I thought he was goofing around, playing the ‘sleeping game,’ so I walked over, leaned down, and tried to tickle him,” she remembers. “He was lifeless, and when I turned him over, he was blue.” Christy started CPR, and at some point, she scooped up her oldest child and ran to the home of a neighbor, who was a nurse. Resuscitation efforts continued, and Christy called 911. Paramedics tried to shock Aidan’s heart back into rhythm, and he was transported to the local hospital. Christy and her husband, Steve, arrived behind the ambulance and soon were given the devastating news: Aidan had apparently died from sudden cardiac arrest.
Brittany VanHook is no ordinary 15-year-old. After experiencing an epileptic seizure in a public mall, she was inspired to create something that would give peace and privacy to those who may face a similar circumstance. With help from her mother and father, Brittany created her first epilepsy blanket in her living room – and from there she began giving back to those in need through Brittany’s Blanket for Epilepsy
Maya Angelou once said, “When you get, give. When you learn, teach.” This is the message 17-year-old Shreya’s parents consistently instilled in her. They encouraged her from a young age to engage in her community beyond just school, family and friends, and it was this upbringing that brought the idea of Foundation for Girls to life. A promise to Shreya’s late grandmother was the catalyst that started the organization. Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2014, her grandmother’s last wish was that Shreya and her sister make an impact by helping vulnerable girls and youth. Determined to fulfill her grandmother’s wish, that’s exactly what Shreya did.
For Cliff Preston, the most joyous time of the week is the time he spends comforting hospitalized newborns. Known as a baby cuddler, Cliff has volunteered for more than 26 years at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. Infants need to form vital human connections from birth, and volunteers like Cliff help make this possible while their parents are away. The staff and patients in the neonatal intensive care unit has quickly become a second family to this Gainesville, Florida, native. Cliff first learned about NICU volunteer programs in the fall of 1992 and, before long, he discovered similar opportunities at his local hospital. After going through an interview process and training sessions, Cliff became an official cuddler, and has spent every Thursday morning in the NICU ever since.