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Joy to Give: Q&A with JoyRx Mentor Tresa

Tresa is one of our new JoyRx Mentors this year as part of the JoyRx Mentorship program, where mentors help seriously ill kids elevate their mood through laughter and play. This trusted companionship and kindship is a cornerstone of the program — and that sense of community is an important value for Tresa as an individual.

So, as part of our volunteer spotlight series, we sat down with Tresa and asked her about her experience as a JoyRx Mentor.

What made you decide to start volunteering with JoyRx?

When I learned about the mission, it resonated with me because of my personal connection to healthcare.

At age 19, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and I remember being so scared… but also feeling so supported by the people around me. My doctor is still part of my life to this day, and I’m almost 40 years old!

And after making the career transition from healthcare to tech, I sought ways to help my community. I was born and raised in Portland, and helping my city and the people in it has always been important to me.

I asked myself, “What is going to bring me fulfillment in my life?”

And you found that feeling of fulfillment in volunteering?

Yes! Volunteering allows me to be involved and take an active role in my community, which has always been important to me.

I want to help people. So, when I stumbled upon JoyRx, I knew it was the perfect way to do just that.

I was scared at first, but I reminded myself: If the fear of being scared kept us from doing something, then nobody would ever do anything. So… even if I was scared, I knew I had a lot of joy to give. I pushed through, and here I am: a mentor!

How has it been volunteering for JoyRx?

What I really like about my experience is seeing an immediate change. I can see that my work and your work are making a big impact on the kids.

Supporting the community creates the environment we want. If we pour love and happiness into the world, that’s a win. If I can make one person’s day better — that’s a win.

What’s your favorite part about volunteering with JoyRx?

First things first: It’s wonderful to escape the real world and have a moment where it’s just about you and your little buddy.

And it’s so fun to see my mentee’s evolution. When I first met him, his family was isolated, and he wasn’t talking as much, wasn’t playing… he was just kind of quiet.

After our first meeting, I got an apprehensive fist bump as a goodbye. On the second visit, a handhold. The third visit, an arm tug. And then, on the fourth visit, I got a big hug. By the end of the month, he told me he loved me.

Getting to see that barrier break down and helping him come out of his shell — this wall he built to protect himself — was powerful. I could see the parents’ hope, too. Like, “Yes, your kid is still in there. He’s still here.”

To know that I’m part of why that’s happening… is there anything more fulfilling than that? Not a chance.

What is a memorable experience you’ve had volunteering as a JoyRx Mentor?

 The experience with my mentee’s parents stands out. They had a similar progression to him: they were always present, and then, after a time, they were like, “Okay, we’re going to go downstairs and get some coffee.”

Little by little, I could see them starting to trust me. I would take videos of their son playing and send them afterward, and I know it meant a lot to them. Giving them that moment of reprieve is just as important to me as hanging out with my buddy.

What advice do you have for anyone thinking of volunteering for JoyRx?

The biggest thing would be: Just approach it with an open heart and a willingness to learn, especially if you haven’t been through something like cancer. The impact of listening when you’re with a family and how much that matters can’t be underestimated.

And for those who are scared, I understand. I was, too!

But if you just want to do the right thing, then you can’t fail! We all have more joy we can give in this world — so let’s go do it.

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