A collection of photographs from a variety of children’s hospitals all over the country will be on display during the month of July in the Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital gallery on the 12th floor. The exhibit is sponsored by the National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions. It includes the photograph above, taken by Chuck Wainwright of Upstate volunteer Matt Byrne holding one of the little patients.
I spoke with Matt Byrne about his volunteer work for a story that will appear in the next issue of Upstate Health magazine, available this summer.
Byrne started volunteering at Upstate 17 years ago when the Child Life Program was in need of someone to read to hospitalized children. A Syracuse lawyer who represents nonprofits, Byrne treasured reading time when his daughter was growing up. “The first thing I did when I held her was to read to her,” he recalls. As she aged, her bedtime routine included stories and songs with Dad. “We did that every night for more than 10 years.”
So when a volunteer spot opened up, he took it. He reads and sings songs with the children, plays games, makes art projects, helps with feeding and accompanies patients on walks. He’s flexible, offering whatever is needed. One little baby a few years ago just needed to be held. “He was really sick, and he just wanted to snuggle.” Byrne obliged.
A picture of him loving the child, taken by photographer Chuck Wainwright, was selected for a traveling exhibition of photographs from children’s hospitals. It reminds Byrne of the joy he feels as a volunteer.
“There are times when it’s pretty tough,” he admits. “But you have a choice. You can walk away, or you can put a smile on your face and do what you’ve got to do. So that’s what I do.”
Learn about volunteer opportunities at Upstate by calling 1-315-464-5180.