Watson Celebrates National Volunteer Week

National Volunteer Week is a time to recognize the amazing individuals who dedicate their time and efforts to furthering the mission of an organization. Ryan Varian, a CareBreak volunteer at the Watson Institute, is one of these extraordinary individuals.

The CareBreak program matches compassionate volunteers with a child with special needs and their family. Volunteers offer their time, a few hours a week, providing the families with a much needed break, knowing their child is involved in social activities with a competent, caring person.

Ryan, a junior Psychology Major/Sociology Minor at the University of Pittsburgh, started volunteering with the Watson Institute’s CareBreak program in August 2015. Through CareBreak, Ryan and his match have developed a strong bond in which the child feels very comfortable with Ryan and has made progress in ways his parents did not anticipate.

Ryan’s match has a fear of dogs and had been working with a counselor to overcome this fear. For weeks, the child spent time at a dog shelter, working to lessen this fear through exposure and activities with the dogs. With Ryan’s company, as a friend, the child was able to be in the same room as a dog and even fed her a treat! This was a huge milestone for the child and was a result of the significant bond Ryan has made with him.

“It’s definitely beneficial both ways. I feel like I have a friend that I get to hang out with.” said Ryan Varian of his bond with his match. “His parents know their son is in good hands and will have a great experience. This provides a few hours of worry-free time for them.”

Ryan is excited to continue visiting his match and his family, even staying in Pittsburgh over the summer, working at the Watson Institute’s Camp WISP, to continue with his visits. CareBreak volunteers like Ryan are the backbone of the program, offering compassionate care to children with special needs, providing worry-free time for their families. This week during National Volunteer Week, the Watson Institute extends its sincere appreciation for these generous, dedicated volunteers who make the CareBreak program possible.