“Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve.” Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of a “heart full of grace” as the only requirement to serve others. Volunteer service is truly a calling. Over the next few pages, you’ll meet three Missouri Southern students who have answered that call. Beyond the expectations of the classroom, they’ve found ways to give their time in service to others. From working with children to delivering meals or sharing our region’s history … through smiles, hugs and tears … they know firsthand the difference a volunteer can make in someone’s life.
Jenson Maydew: ‘Fight Like Andrew’
“Letting kids with cancer be kids again.”
That’s the motto for Camp Quality – a program serving hundreds of children with cancer in 11 different states. And it’s a motto that Jenson Maydew had taken to heart before she even began volunteering there.
“During my senior year of high school, my best friend’s little brother passed away from cancer at age nine,” she says. “His name was Andrew, and he was in and out of hospitals. I spent a lot of time talking to him.”
It was during this time that she turned to Google to see how her lifelong love of art could be used to help children in Andrew’s situation. Through art therapy, Maydew says she hopes to work with children to help them express their emotions through words and pictures, and also help them through their hospital stay.
Today, Maydew – who plays basketball and throws shot put on the track and field team – sports a tattoo of the letters FLA on her bicep, for “Fight Like Andrew.” The junior art therapy major is a volunteer for Camp Quality locations in Kansas City and Neosho.
“I had just graduated from high school and I was here to help with basketball camp for kids before the start of my freshman year,” she said. “A little girl at the camp became super attached to me and asked me questions about what I wanted to do.
“I told her I wanted to work with kids with cancer, and she told me her mom works at Camp Quality.”
At Camp Quality, volunteer companions are paired up with campers to spend one-on-one time with them throughout the program. Activities include swimming, hiking, fishing and taking a ride on a zip line. While the camps are held in the summer, there are also reunions and family events that take place year round.
“At the camp in Kansas City, siblings can come too,” says Maydew. “Talking to them about it, it helped me understand where kids come from in these situations. She told me she sometimes didn’t know where she was going to sleep at night … at her grandparents’ house or with her neighbors … because her parents were always at the hospital. Cancer affects people in different ways.”
During her first year with Camp Quality, Maydew made the Top 5 list for “Best Companion,” selected from among hundreds of other volunteers in the U.S. Volunteering has also kept her close to her best friend, Dani – Andrew’s older sister. “She volunteers at the camp with me every year … we go through the hard emotions together.”
Josh Hadley: ‘It’s what I’m supposed to do’
Josh Hadley remembers how it felt as a youth playing football, when older athletes would come to work with him and other young teammates.
“It had a big impact on me,” he says. “It always inspired me to keep playing. Having those guys who were where I wanted to be come and show love, it made me want to keep playing and do better.”
Hadley, a senior public relations manager originally from Northern California, plays running back for the Lions. He hasn’t forgotten the positive impact those volunteers made on him and is paying it forward. He volunteers his time with the Joplin Junior Eagles, helping the fifth-grade boys learn the basics of game.
“I come in and show the kids drills to help them develop their skills, and the right way to do the fundamentals,” says Hadley. “It’s everything from the basics of football to ball security, how to redirect and how to catch a ball.”
Hadley has developed good relationships with the kids he has worked with.
“I see them around town or at church and they’ll run up to me,” he says. “It’s really cool.”
But service doesn’t stop once he’s off the field. Hadley has worked with the United Way for the Play 60 program – encouraging kids to be active for at least 60 minutes a day. He’s volunteered at food banks, delivering meals to those in need. And last spring, he traveled to Denver, Colo., with a group from College Heights Christian Church to work on a variety of community service projects, from picking up trash to building shelters.
His view of the importance of volunteer service is a simple one: It’s a calling. “I’m not doing anyone a favor (by volunteering),” says Hadley. “It’s what I’m called to do … leaders serve. I’m just doing what I’m supposed to do.”
Ashley Burns: ‘Volunteering is a way of life’
Ashley Burns, a junior biology major from Granby, “knows” volunteering.
Some of her earliest efforts took place after her family moved to the Granby area from California when she was 9 years old.
“We visited the George Washington Carver National Monument near Diamond and thought it was beautiful,” she remembers. “My dad and I went there every Sunday, primarily doing trail and stream maintenance and composting with watercress.”
She says her father and mother, Jerry Burns and Jennifer Ames, have been her greatest inspirations.
“They’ve made it not something I have to do but something I want to do,” she says.
She spoke to groups that came to the monument about Dr. Carver’s development of milk and other products out of peanuts.
“That gave me experience speaking to groups and helped get me out of my shell,” she says.
In 2014, Burns competed with volunteers from over 400 national parks to win the national George B. Hartzog Outstanding Youth Volunteer Award. It was the first time anyone from the park had received that recognition. The prize included a trip to Washington, D.C.
As a senior at East Newton High School, she was the winner of a $5,000 Golden Lion Award scholarship at Missouri Southern for her work there.
She volunteered at the Carver National Monument until the age of 18.
“Then I got an opportunity to be hired as a paid employee for National Park Service and I took it,” the effervescent 20-year-old says with a smile.
Burns, an Honors Program and Project Stay student at Missouri Southern, is a member of the Campus Activities Board, the Lion Ambassadors and Southern Ambassadors. As a Southern Ambassador, she conducts tours of the Missouri Southern campus for potential students and parents.
“Volunteering is a way of life and important to me,” she says. “I love it. Just about wherever I go I find a way to volunteer. Because of the impact it has had on me, I want to pass it on.”
Burns says she would like to pursue a career in the National Park Service, ultimately becoming a park superintendent or holding an even higher position in the Interior Department.
“I encourage people to volunteer, no matter what,” she says. “If you love animals, volunteer at an animal shelter. If you want to help people, work in a soup kitchen. If you love the outdoors, help clean up a park. It could really change the course of your life, like it did mine.”