Abby Wright – Active Minds

The last place I volunteered was at the Active Minds Organization. This organization supports ending the stigma that surrounds mental health and mental health conversations on college campuses and among young adults. I think that with our generation this is one of the biggest struggles in young adults and deserves to be recognized.

Active Minds has chapters on college campuses (including OSU) and we participate in walks to raise awareness, mental health keynote speakers, and a program called “Send Silence Packing” where personal stories are shared that bring awareness to issues surrounding mental health and provide resources for those struggling.

Active Minds is making an impact on people everywhere and in big ways. Bringing awareness to mental health battles and the signs that are present when someone is having trouble. This organization has saved lives and helped thousands of friends and family members support those who need it.

 I have seen firsthand how this organization and its cause can save a life and protect those who are silently struggling. It is a reminder that no one is alone and allows you to be there for people who might not think they have anyone to go to. I encourage everyone to get involved with Active Minds and see the impact it can have!

Ashley Frankenfeld – Alzheimer’s Association

The last place I volunteered was with the Alzheimer’s Association in Denver, Colorado. Every year, my whole entire family comes out to Denver and we all participate in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Being surrounded by tons of family is a wonderful time to give back, remember our loved ones, and participate in a cause that is very near to our hearts.

In the summer of 2018, I lost both of my grandparents to Alzheimer’s. In a family with over 20 grandkids and great grandkids, it was a very difficult event to experience.

After 2018, we all made it a priority to contribute to the Alzheimer’s Association in ANY way possible. Every year, I look forward to September, because that is the time that we get to fight for an end to ALZ altogether.

Last year, Walk to End Alzheimer’s raised more than $67 million.

Austin Feldmann – UIDM

University of Iowa Dance Marathon (UIDM) was the most meaningful and impactful organization I have ever dedicated my time toward.  Dance Marathon is a student organization at 100’s of universities and colleges nationwide to raise money for families at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. UIDM raises money for the kiddos at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital to help with the financial impact of pediatric cancer.  This is the largest student organization at Iowa and the 4th largest Dance Marathon in the country as far as financial contributions.  Every year there is a big event in which students dance for 24 hours with no sitting, no sleeping and no caffeine before revealing the amount of money that was raised that year.

I was drawn to the organization with my cousin being treated at the university hospital and seeing how cancer affected someone close to me growing up. I had multiple friends who had done it my Freshman year along with many people in my fraternity being leaders in the organization which pushed me into joining my sophomore year.  I spent one year as a dancer and two years on leadership.  My first year of leadership I was a Morale Captain and had recruited and retained 48 dancers to raise over $36,000 that year.  This was one of the most rewarding and fun years of my life as I not only met my now fiancé but met 52 other like-minded people who all collaboratively motivated 2,000+ people to raise $2.4 million. I also was paired up with a family for one of the kids who was impacted by cancer, and I was able to get to know him and spend time with him at the hospital and out at other family events.

The next year I was on the event team that planned the different activities to keep dancers at the event engaged and helped with community and university outreach. I also joined over 200 other runners in UIDM to pledge $1,000 and to run the Chicago Marathon.  I exceeded this financial goal and my motivation to be able to finish the marathon came from knowing that the kids fight a lot more pain than what I was feeling on that day.

Rikki Johnson

The last place that I volunteered, I didn’t actually have to attend any place to do it. I actually was able to donate my breast milk to a milk bank in Oklahoma for NICU babies as well as other babies whose mothers couldn’t produce.

It was a really cool organization that I decided that I wanted to give towards because breastfeeding was such a hard thing to do, and with all the time and effort that I put into it I wanted someone else to reap the benefits.

Also, COVID was still around very heavily, and there was a lot of research that said breast milk could help prevent babies from getting COVID.

It was really inspiring to hear the things that the parents were going through, and it was a really cool thing that I got to be involved in.

Tom Cowley – Make A Wish

The majority of my volunteer time goes to Make-A-Wish Young Professional Group the Oklahoma Chapter, specifically Tulsa.

Even before I became a father, I’ve always had deep levels of empathy for children with critical illnesses and the families that support them. The opportunity to volunteer arrived at a great time in my life and the group had all the perfect ingredients of volunteering. I would get a chance to network with talented young professionals, support a cause/organization that speaks to me, and endless opportunities to make an impact and instill hope in other peoples’ live. So, it was easy for me to lean into it when our Oklahoma City branch referred Make-A-Wish to our Tulsa branch.

For the last two-plus years, I’ve served as the group Sponsorship Chair. My primary focus is raising as many dollars as I possibly can for our two major annual events.

Of those two events is a golf tournament and a brunch and all of the dollars, all the funds, raised go directly to an Oklahoma kid and his or her wish.

Basically, the dollars we raise fund those experiences, and I can’t think of anything more rewarding than co-creating, I can’t take all the credit I’m just helping raise money but helping create a once in a lifetime experience for a wish kid and their family.

Sam James – Make A Wish

I’m very involved in Make-a-Wish Oklahoma. I interned there my senior year of college, both semesters, and I was heavily involved as a volunteer.

I had two wish kids, and both wanted to go to Disney. With Covid, the volunteer structures changed a bit. Everything is kind of on hold. But I’m still connected with the family and I’m really looking forward to when we can continue and make those kids’ wishes come true.

I was really drawn to Make-a-Wish because, a really good friend of mine interned with them her Junior year. She spoke so highly of them, so I applied. The very first conversation I had with their coordinator I was just like, this is it. This is where I want to be.

Volunteering there always just puts your life into perspective. It’s easy to forget how lucky I am. I’ve been meeting with one specific family and they’re always so grateful and so appreciative. And it really just touches you. The kids… they’re so excited. It’s just really awesome.

Christy Fanning – Girls Club

In a girls club in a mentorship role at the school where I was a teacher.

I wanted to be able to mentor the kids there because so many of them have no belief in themselves or their abilities. I wanted to be able to push them to their fullest growth and potential.

I helped so many kids build their self confidence as well as push them to do more than what is expected of them. I was able to have so many impactful conversations about mental health and practical skills they could apply in their own lives to become the best version of themselves.

So many of the girls came to me and told me I gave them a space to feel supported, safe, loved, and accepted. Many of them had ambitions to go onto college or be leaders within the school to impact change. I was rewarded by being able to witness my efforts come to fruition when I saw how the mentalities of the girls changed over the months that I worked with them.

Hannah Harrell – Unbound Now

The last place I volunteered my time was for Unbound Now. This organization supports survivors and resources communities to fight human trafficking around the world.

There are an estimated 50 million victims of human trafficking globally and their mission is to see people set free and restored. I have been drawn to this cause for several reasons. First, I believe in the inherent value and dignity of every individual which compels me to act and work towards creating a world where cruelty like this ceases to exist. Second, this organization allows me to utilize my skills, resources, and passions to make a difference. I studied international development and nonprofit organizational studies during my time at OU and heavily focused on international policy concerning human trafficking in Central America.

By raising awareness, providing support to current staff, and advocating for stronger legislation and policies in America, I am able contribute my knowledge and time to an organization that aligns with my values and provides a platform for making a lasting impact.

Michelle Burns – Homeless Shelters

I owe a lot to my parents for raising my siblings in a hard-working, service-oriented home. Growing up, my family would serve food at a local homeless shelter quite often. I learned how much of a connection you can have with someone who seems to live so differently than me.

What I found was that either I was not that different from that individual, or if I was, I could learn a lot from their experiences. From then on, my heart has always been in serving those in impoverished communities. I did research on positive youth development during undergrad and graduate school, so I generally gravitate towards programs centered around youth and families—whether that be supporting relationships, sharing resources, or coaching in education and career goals.

Nothing makes me happier than finding that moment with someone where a wall is taken down and vulnerability is welcome—that is when a true relationship forms and you are able to challenge and fuel that individual in so many ways.

Maddy Romoser – Wings of Hope

The last place I volunteered was for an organization called Wings of Hope.

Wings of Hope is an organization that helps with crisis and family issues, but also serves as a counseling service/shelter for women and children seeking refuge from domestic violence situations.

We got the opportunity to meet many leaders that run the Wings of Hope organization. That is what drew me into my love for helping this great cause, that has also helped so many individuals in the Payne County. We had many different events that we would put on with my sorority in support of Wings of Hope, but my favorite was a weekend long softball tournament that would occur in the spring.

We did a bunch of events leading up to the main event, where we would raise money through food events, T-shirt sales, and signing up softball teams to play in the tournament. The entire weekend was a blast and many Greek life members at OSU came to watch this softball tournament. It was such a great opportunity because we at the end of the tournament we would get to present a check to the directors of Wings of Hope.

Most years, the checks have been over $40,000 so it was great to see that number and just know how much of an impact it’s going to make for that organization. Wings of Hope has been able to help so many individuals that have been affected by domestic violence. I just think that’s such an amazing cause because you just don’t realize how often domestic violence occurs in our world, let alone our own county.

I’m just grateful for the small impact that I got to be a part of in helping that organization continue to prosper and be able to provide resources for those individuals affected move on from those situations.