At JoyRx, we believe that Joy is an unlimited resource and undeniable right. And when it comes to friendships, we’ve seen the power of a connection and how it can lead to Joy. That’s why we champion our JoyRx Mentorship program, which fosters and creates friendships for vulnerable children who need Joy most.
Today, on National Friendship Day — which occurs every year on the first Sunday of August — we celebrate the caring, supportive friendships that help create essential, emotional healing for the seriously ill children we serve.
But how and why is friendship important to our health?
The power of friendship is twofold, affecting both our mental and physical health.
Beyond the important aspect of humanity thriving in social situations, researchers have long explored the effect friendships can have on mental health. A study published in 2018 in Child Development suggests that bonds from adolescence might have an enormous, significant role in a person’s mental health for years well past childhood.
The study, conducted over ten years, investigated how important strong relationships are for adolescents, and how the effects last well into adulthood. It found that those adolescents who had close, emotional ties with others showed improvement in their levels of anxiety, depression, and self-worth as they grew older.
“In other words,” wrote journalist Angus Chen for NPR, “they reported less depression and anxiety and more self-worth.”
While naturally there are more factors related to depression and its symptoms, researchers were confident that strong friendships play a meaningful part in a person’s life and well-being.
And not just mental well-being.
Lydia Denworth, author of Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond, told NPR that friendship can go one step further towards improving physical health, too, influencing our health on the cellular level.
“Few people understand that your social relationships can actually change your health,” she said. “They change your cardiovascular system, your immune system, how you sleep, your cognitive health.”
How does friendship lead to Joy?
Researchers affirm the power of connection, and we know that friendships lead to improved well-being, connection, self-worth, and happiness.
In other words: friendship leads to Joy — and that matters so much to us as humans, especially for children undergoing the most challenging moments in their lives.
At JoyRx, we know that Joy is an immune system enhancer. We’ve seen the effect the emotion has on the seriously ill children we serve. When living through isolating hospital stays and long, trying treatments, children need more than just medicine to heal.
They also need to feel Joy.
And that’s what JoyRx Mentorship strives to create.
JoyRx Mentorship fosters trusted companionship to inspire laughter and distraction during an isolating time. Our trained, adult volunteer JoyRx Mentors offer emotional support to the child and provide a trusted friend so parents can have a minute of reprieve.
Our JoyRx Mentorship specialists thoughtfully match kids with their mentors based on hobbies, interests, and parent and child preferences. Since 1999, we’ve helped create over 1,600 matches between a JoyRx Mentor and a child facing serious pediatric illness. This year alone, we’ve welcomed 36 (and counting) new friendships!
Help us create Joy!
We’ve seen again and again what a powerful friendship can be, not just for the children we serve, but also for the JoyRx Mentors who generously volunteer their time to help make a child’s day a little brighter.
“Once I got involved with JoyRx, I was inspired: I love the people I meet when I volunteer — not just the kids but the other volunteers, too,” said longtime JoyRx Mentor Ed Burke in a recent interview. “I think it’s important to give back. Being a JoyRx Mentor is an amazing experience and I’ve met so many amazing kids over the years.”
We see what friendship can do. It helps us find meaning in our lives; it broadens our worldview; and it helps us grow.
“During my 15 years at JoyRx, I am amazed every day at the incredible people that walk through our doors and give their time and talents so generously,” said Kacy Smerke, Director of Programs, PNW, in an open call for volunteers. “We couldn’t offer our Joy-based programs without our incredible volunteers.”
Today, we celebrate the power of friendship! To learn more about JoyRx Mentorship or to volunteer as a mentor, visit our website.