May 2016 Volunteer of the Month
Joy Young was 18 years old when her mother, Thelma Stussy, passed away from ALS. That was 26 years ago, but the memory remains strong. That memory motivates Joy to do what she cans to bring hope and comfort to others living with ALS in her community. As a result, Joy Young is the Greater Philadelphia Chapter’s May 2016 Volunteer of the Month.
Over two and a half decades after her mom’s passing, Joy still tells people her story. It was a very difficult time for her and for others who knew and loved Thelma. No 18 year old should have to take care of a dying parent. Today, Joy doesn’t focus on the pain of that experience. Instead, her smile and good nature is just like her first name, full of joy through the work of helping others.
Many years after her mother passed away, Joy wanted to find ways to give back to the ALS cause. She looked on the Greater Philadelphia Chapter website and followed a link to volunteer. Following a website link was not possible when she first encountered ALS in 1990.
Joy’s first volunteer experience was at the 2013 Greater Philadelphia Walk to Defeat ALS. There she helped register teams and welcome people on walk day. She immediately loved the happiness and unity of all of the participants. It felt like home and the memory of her mother was not far behind. Since then, she’s continued to volunteer at the walk in Philadelphia, assisting with registration, selling t-shirts, and doing whatever is asked to help the walk run smoothly.
Each event with the Chapter motivated Joy to do more. She volunteered at the annual ALS Patient and Family Holiday Party, at Hot Chocolate, at a research meeting, and the Annual Luncheon. Each event brought new tasks, whether it was helping kids with crafts at the holiday party or setting up the auctions at Hot Chocolate or selling raffle tickets. Joy Young is happy to find more ways to help at each event and she is always eager to be involved. Since 2013, she has become such a common presence that event organizers look forward to seeing her there, even before the first team registers or the first ticket is sold.
“Since I’ve started volunteering, I’ve learned that ALS is still awful,” said Joy. “However, I think the Chapter is amazing. I have seen first-hand the care given to all of the patients. The people are so kind and caring. I am sure the Chapter is making huge differences in so many lives and I am very happy to help in any way that I can.”
In fact, Joy, who had attended so many events, did find more ways to help. While volunteering at a Chapter Holiday Party, she learned about the Visiting Volunteer program. She emailed Gail Houseman, a nurse with the Chapter who runs the program, the very next day. After discussing the role and going through training, Joy began visiting Anita, a person with ALS that Gail helped connect her with almost three years ago. To this day, Joy goes to visit with her on Sundays for a few hours, bringing companionship and friendly conversation.
Joy’s role has continued to grow. Recently she began to visit with Ron, another person with ALS in the Philadelphia area. Joy sees him on Saturdays for a few hours and helps with cleaning, going out to eat, making appointments, and doing whatever is needed to make life easier.
“I love being a Visiting Volunteer,” said Joy. “When my mother was sick, I would have loved the two or three hours that a volunteer could have given to allow me just a little break. I know how difficult this illness is for both the patient and their caregiver. Hopefully I am making it a little easier for all involved.”
When it comes to Joy Young, we don’t have to hope. Anyone who has worked with her, whether at events or as she visits patient families, knows for a fact that Joy is making life easier for everybody touched by ALS. It was hard for 18 year old Joy to watch her mother battle through the effects of ALS, but today, years later, that experience motivates Joy to make the lives of others easier.
Thank you Joy for all that you do.