MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Cheryl Russell said babies have always held a special place in her heart.
That’s why she decided to become a Baby Hugger at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.
This is her third year as a volunteer.
"I loved holding my babies and my nieces and nephews and I had some extra time to volunteer," Russell said. "So, I looked online. I filled out the application and they contacted me from there."
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Each week Russell spends her time on the intensive care unit floors of the hospital by rocking and cuddling newborns or toddlers.
“The nurses will hand us the baby and then I hold them and talk to them and pray for them,” Russell said. “Tell them how strong and brave they are.”
The time she spends with the children can be a big help for both parents and staff.
"I'm sure it's though when you're there with the baby and they're sick and you need to get away sometimes, and you have other children you need to see about," Russell explained. "Every day there are things you need to do."
Currently, there are 70 volunteers in the Baby Hugger Program.
All volunteers are required to volunteer one three-hour shift a week for at least six months.
"We ask that volunteers get three letters of recommendation from people who are not family members," Volunteer Coordinator Hannah Rafieetary said. "We also need immunization records. This is a hospital, so we need to make sure everyone is cleared with those."
After a background check and orientation, volunteers are free to assist staff and parents by providing attention and care.
“It’s just a good upbeat happy place to be and if you have a sick child and you have to be somewhere, this is a good place,” Russell said.
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