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New Rochelle Iona College Students Bring Joy To Children

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. -- Iona College students and student campus ministers Angeli Alonzo and Jordan Gilruth serve as co-coordinators for the school’s chapter of Project Sunshine.

“It’s been truly an inspirational experience going to the hospitals,” said Gilruth via e-mail. “The children are so pure and innocent.”

Project Sunshine is an international nonprofit organization that provides educational, social and recreational programs to children and families facing medical challenges according to Alonzo, who is in her second year as chapter leader for the Iona College chapter. Thousands of college and corporate chapters exist worldwide.

“It has been such a tremendous and eye-opening experience for me because not only do I get to make a difference in the lives of these kids but, as a student leader, I have the ability to enable others to act and make a difference as well,” Alonzo said. “School is stressful and each semester gets more insane, but going to the hospitals just for a couple of hours to play with the kids is always such a joy and the perfect break in my day.”

For Gilruth, visiting children in the hospital makes him feel young at heart.

“By the time we have to leave, no one ever wants to go,” Gilruth said. “I love every second spent with the kids and the volunteers.”

The two visit Blythdale Children's Hospital in Valhalla, N.Y. and Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, where they bring a number of arts and crafts activities for the kids to do as well as coloring pages and games.

Children are also given books as part of a program the two have initiated entitled “Book Buddies.”

“We bring books to the hospitals and our volunteers read one-on-one or in groups with the kids,” Alonzo said. “We leave the books behind so that the kids can continue to read on their own and discover the value of reading and the enjoyment that comes with it.”

Project Sunshine volunteers also make cards called “Sunnygrams” that display messages such as “Sending Sunshine your way." Two hundred have been made so far this year, which have been distributed to Blythdale and Montefiore.

Volunteers also create “Surgi-dolls,” dolls that doctors use to illustrate to children the procedures they will be undergoing. Fund-raising is also done to assist with the funding of Project Sunshine programs as part of the organization’s overall mission.

The Iona College Department for Campus Ministries sponsors many service projects such as Soup Kitchen, Habitat for Humanity and Project Sunshine, according to Alonzo.

“We work with many of these nonprofit organizations so that students at Iona can get involved in their community,” Alonzo said.

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