September 14, 2009
Hospital hosts special celebration for special-needs volunteer
Hinsdale – Where others see disability, Sher Fox saw an opportunity. Fox, Adventist Hinsdale Hospital’s director of volunteer services, was approached five years ago by the mother of a young man with special needs seeking a chance to do something meaningful. Now a beloved member of the hospital’s volunteer team, Jeff Kummer was surprised to find 200 friends and family members at the hospital singing “Happy Birthday” to him earlier this month.
“We’re so proud of Jeff and so blessed that he has made so many connections at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital,” said Kummer’s mom, Kim Jehlik. “Being a volunteer has given him a purpose. Everyone needs to wake up in the morning and feel like they’re needed.”
Kummer, of Burr Ridge, was diagnosed with Ataxia Telangiectasia (AT), a rare neurological disease, when he was just 13 years old. This genetic disease affects balance, coordination and speech, and Kummer uses a wheelchair to get around. Because he wasn’t expected to live past age 20, his 30th birthday on Sept. 2 was a very special celebration.
He volunteers at the hospital twice a week, assisting with a variety of tasks, including picking up and delivering specimens to the laboratories and other departments, running other errands and escorting patients and visitors throughout the hospital. Although there’s a 30- to 40-year age difference between Kummer and most of his fellow volunteers, the team has embraced him as one of their own.
“Being an escort, I’ve made some friends throughout the hospital,” Kummer said.
When the family moved to Burr Ridge several years ago, Jehlik began to seek a social outlet for her son. It was during a Bible study that a friend suggested she check out volunteer opportunities at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital. Jehlik and Kummer talked to Fox, who welcomed him to the team. Other volunteers say he teaches them to be patient and not to be limited by their own shortcomings.
“Having Jeff here sensitizes all of us to the fact that sometimes we make the world more difficult than it needs to be for people with limitations,” Fox said. “He has been a real blessing to us.”
Although Kummer uses a manual wheelchair at home, he uses an electric wheelchair at the hospital to move about more quickly. He’s now expected to live a long life.
“Jeff has a full life,” Jehlik said. “He has people like Sher Fox and the people in the volunteer department that have made his days happy and full. He has so much to complain about but he never complains about anything.”