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Wichitan goes from teen volunteer to WSU graduate

Brandon Eckerman began volunteering as an eighth-grader because he wanted to work, but was too young to get a job.

So instead, he joined the ranks of teen volunteers at Ascension Via Christi and continued to give his time into adulthood.

Now, eight years and nearly 500 volunteer hours later, Brandon is pondering his future having just graduated from Wichita State University with a bachelor's degree in Biomedical Engineering.

While he's not sure whether that future will be in Wichita or elsewhere, he knows his formal education along with all he learned as a volunteer will prove valuable.

"Volunteering gave me a way to interact with the medical world without any formal training," says Brandon, who as a WSU student worked in the Admissions office and appeared as WuShock at community events.

Most of Brandon's volunteer hours were spent helping out in the ChildLife Center at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis, entertaining pediatric patients in the playroom and sanitizing and organizing toys and art supplies.

While he has many memories of his time on the unit, he remembers time spent with one patient because she made him a little foam man as a special thank you.

"I still have it," says Brandon, whose role as an Ascension Via Christi volunteer changed when he started college.

 "I lost the ability to do routine weekly volunteering when I got older," says Brandon. "But I could still share mey ideas in councils and help out at blood drives and other events." 

As he maps out his plans, Brandon says he won't forget what a tremendous impact that giving even a few hours of time each week can make.

"I enjoyed giving my time and energy to something meaningful," says Brandon. "It was worthwhile to the people I work with and to me."

Nor will those who had the opportunity to work with Brandon be forgetting him.

"Brandon is a prime example of how dedicated, selfless, giving our student volunteers are," says Susan Delling, Ascension Via Christi’s Director of Guest and Volunteer Services. “Helping student volunteers find purpose and meaning through giving back is a big part of our program."

Says Susan: "It's a great way to make a difference, find a career path in healthcare, meet new people and stay connected to Wichita's community."

For more information about how you or someone you know can become an Ascension Via Christi Volunteer, please contact Volunteer Services at (316) 268-5172.

About Taylor Valdez

Curly hair with straight priorities. Dedicated workaholic and weekend adventurer. When I'm not writing or working, I'm shopping, chowing down on local bites or binging Netflix.