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JourneyCare Juniors celebrates 10 years of young volunteers!

There are moments when the stars align and bring together people who will create something truly meaningful – something that makes a difference.

That is exactly what happened 10 years ago, when Barrington residents and mothers Mary Beaubien, Tricia Johnson and Laura Horak came together to lament the lack of volunteer opportunities available to their school-age children.

“We were coming together at the right time in our lives, we had all previously volunteered together, and we had been touched by JourneyCare in different ways,” Mary recalls.

Laura’s family was already volunteering with JourneyCare, and the organization served Tricia’s mother-in-law as a JourneyCare patient. Mary’s mother- and father-in-law, Mark and Dee Beaubien, were both an instrumental part of a group that helped establish the JourneyCare Pepper Family Hospice CareCenter in Barrington. Mark contributed legislative work and Dee served on the Board of Trustees for many years – both encouraging their whole family to support the nonprofit.

“As a State Representative, Mark believed in many different kinds of service for the community and JourneyCare was one of the top organizations that he believed in,” Mary said.

Tricia adds that all three women wondered why they could find so few volunteer opportunities for their grade-school children to learn about needs in their community, while their high school teens not only had chances to volunteer, but requirements for school.

“The goal was to teach kids in grades four through eight about volunteerism, the importance of giving back, and learn what it looks like on the inside of a nonprofit organization,” Tricia said. “We wanted them to learn about an organization in our community that is doing a lot of good.”

As they were forming the group, the Beaubien family lost their patriarch, Mark, and Mary says they took this sad event and channeled it into something positive: the women launched what was initially called The Mark Beaubien Memorial Junior Hospice Group – which today is known as the JourneyCare Juniors.

“Dee donated startup funds for Juniors in Mark’s memory and we created the group in honor of his lifelong commitment to service, emphasizing how important service is at any age,” Mary said.

From the very start, the group had a winning formula: each meeting included education about a facet of JourneyCare, often from a staff member, volunteer or patient, as well as a hands-on activity like making cards that would benefit patients, families or frontline staff.

“These once-a-month Friday nights became part of what my family did,” Mary said. “Some of these kids would even come on their birthday or miss a special event at school because the Juniors meant so much to them, my own kids included. We have so many wonderful memories, and I think my children were so invested because it was inspired by their grandfather, who dedicated his life to service.”

Mary’s daughter Annie Beaubien is now 22 and was among the first group of JourneyCare Junior “graduates.” She recalls how her mom along with Tricia and Laura made Juniors meetings an “educational, fun and a happy place to be.”

“One of the most important things that Juniors taught me, at a young age, is that volunteering can be so much fun while helping so many people! Our Juniors motto was – and still is – ‘To the world you may be one person, but to one person you are the world.’”

In the last decade, at least 50 children have graduated from JourneyCare Juniors by aging out of the program, including all of Tricia’s children – Olivia, Ella and Owen – and Mary’s children, Annie, Bobby and Ella. Today, the group is co-led by Allison Meier and Carrie Raia, with help from JourneyCare Volunteer Supervisor Ali Behrens. These leaders have successfully helped the group navigate the tough challenges of staying active and connected throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We knew the patients were the ones especially impacted, so we thought ‘What can we do to bring a little bit of joy?’” Allison said.

The group continued to meet virtually to discuss their monthly theme, which has included topics like pet therapy, philanthropy, caring for military veterans, and music-thanatology. They also continued to make crafts at home or in small groups before sharing them in a JourneyCare drop box. In return, Ali Behrens would send photos to the Juniors showing where how their work helped, such as a picture of a smiling veteran patient with a cozy blanket they made, or nurses posing with seasonal decorations made by the kids.

Allison says the group is still devising creative ideas as some pandemic restrictions continue.

“We’d love to see if we can create some new safe activities, like building snowmen outside the windows of the Barrington CareCenter, coloring the windows for the holidays or caroling outside,” she says. “We are always working toward our main mission: to help people at a time they need it most.”

For details on the JourneyCare Juniors or to join the group, contact Ali Behrens at abehrens@journeycare.org or visit journeycare.org/volunteer/youth-volunteer-opportunities.

Ella, Annie, Dee, Mary and Bobby Beaubien

Olivia, Owen and Tricia Johnson

This year, the JourneyCare Juniors created blankets for JourneyCare patients who served in the military for Veterans Day