Transcript: Sami Gray (The Art of Volunteering)

The following is a transcription of The Art of Volunteering Episode 1: Sami Gray.

Stormy Bell: Hello, my friends! Welcome to the first episode of The Art of Volunteering. Today’s guest is Sami Gray. She is a committed volunteer to support childhood cancer. She is a volunteer. She is a horse lover and she’s a cancer survivor. Sami thank you for being on The Art of Volunteering.

Sami Gray: Thank you for having me today.

Stormy Bell: Wonderful. Just start out, tell me a little bit about yourself. Tell me a little about your journey.

Sami Gray: I’m Samantha Gray. I am 21 years old and when I was about 13 months old, I was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma. I went through a lot of radiation and chemotherapy and I lost the hair in my ears. So I am hearing lost and I wear two hearing aids in my ears. I am now 20 years cancer free and it’s been great. I love horses. Work with horses all the time and yeah.

Stormy Bell: All right! Let’s just see, so you’re 13 months when you’re diagnosed. I remember when you were diagnosed. I remember checking with your mom. It was scary times when you were little to think how small you were. Sami is right in between the ages of my sons so it was interesting sharing her journey from afar because we didn’t live close to you or anything but I’m so glad that you’re now 21.

Sami Gray: Yes.

Stormy Bell: All right. Along this journey you were a Make-A-Wish recipient. Can you tell me about that?

Sami Gray: When I was 8 years old, I wanted a pony. Well, I’ve always wanted a pony. But when I was 8 years old, I received my Make-A-Wish of a white girl horse named Snow. The Cody High School in Cody, Wyoming raised the money and [we] got that money and we found a pony. Perfect pony for me. They made that wish come true and I had a pony one day.

Stormy Bell: That’s awesome. From that you became a volunteer to help raise money for someone else’s dream or wish, right?

Sami Gray: Yes. Yes.

Stormy Bell: Can you tell me a little bit about that? Like what you did and who all was involved?

Sami Gray: Not only did I help because I was in Make-A-Wish I was also in student council. So it was mainly student council that would run the program and then all of the high school, middle school in Wyoming would raise money for one, a few of those kids in the state of what they wanted. We would just have like a full week, we’d call it Make-A-Wish week and we’d raise money and do a whole bunch of stuff to raise money. And we have, like, we dress up every day, different things. If the kid wanted to go to Disney we dress up every day as a different Disney thing or character. So we just have fun with it and everybody got involved and it was just amazing.

Stormy Bell: That’s awesome. How many wishes have you granted by doing that?

Sami Gray: Ooh. Sometimes two or three a year. So maybe about a dozen or so for me.

Stormy Bell: That’s incredible!

Sami Gray: Yeah.

Stormy Bell: That is amazing! What’s the one wish you remember the most of granting? Or the person who is most excited?

Sami Gray: Ooh, that’s been a while since I’ve seen that. One of my friends personally wanted to go to Hawaii. So it was kind of cool being involved in her process of going to Hawaii.

Stormy Bell: Very cool. Circling back to your wish, do you still have Snow?

Sami Gray: I do not. She passed away. It’s gonna be 3 years now since it’s March.

Stormy Bell: So you had her a long time.

Sami Gray: I had. I had her for about, I think, 8 years or so.

Stormy Bell: Okay. Is that how you learned to ride a horse or did you know ahead of time?

Sami Gray: I knew ahead of time. I learned how to ride horses when I was 4 years old and I grew up around them when I was younger.

Stormy Bell: Okay. What compels you to give back to childhood cancer?

Sami Gray: Because I’m a survivor. I wanna help kids in need like I was. And it’s just seeing a smile on their face of getting a wish or having their dream come true. It’s just so cool to see.

Stormy Bell: Amazing. I know that you’ve been a part of Make-A-Wish, you’ve also done Alex’s Lemonade Stand, and then you’re also part of Jason’s Friends. Can you just share a little bit, we already talked about Make-A-Wish, but share a little bit about Alex’s Lemonade Stand and Jason’s Friends? Like how you volunteer, how you got involved.

Sami Gray: So I’ll start off with Alex’s Lemonade Stand. She was a girl that actually had neuroblastoma, and was in the same hospital as me Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She wanted to raise money for childhood cancer research. The drink that we had to take for chemo was like, really not that good. It was like a grape flavor, I think. So she decided to do lemonade. She did that lemonade and she would go and not sell the lemonade, but she would take donations for the lemonade. She just stood out there with a lemonade stand and just take donations. People can have lemonade and she get donations and that grew. Supposedly she got pretty close with us and she told my mom she’s like “put some lemonade in her juice” instead of the grape juice for my chemo. Alex did eventually pass away and her parents still go on with the Alex’s Lemonade Stand. There’s a whole bunch of people across the whole United States that volunteer and just donate for childhood cancer research.

Stormy Bell: That’s awesome. Now you had told me that there was one person who, what gave you a hundred dollars bill for a glass of lemonade?

Sami Gray: Yes. I’ve had people give me a hundred dollars bill donations for a glass of lemonade.

Stormy Bell: Bet that’s an incredible feeling. Like, look what I got!

Sami Gray: Yes, exactly.

Stormy Bell: How many years did you do that? Or are you still doing it?

Sami Gray: We haven’t done one in a while just because of college and not being around, but we did it from maybe 15 plus years.

Stormy Bell: Oh wow. Okay. So very committed to it. That’s awesome.

Sami Gray: Yeah.

Stormy Bell: All right. Now tell me a little about Jason’s Friends. So Jason’s Friends is only in Wyoming, right? It’s not a national organization.

Sami Gray: Correct. Jason’s Friends is just in Wyoming. Jason’s Friends was started by a family and the son had cancer and he passed away. But in Wyoming, it’s so hard to go to hospitals. They’re so far away. You either gotta go to Denver, which is from at least Cody it’s 8 hours. They gotta go to Salt Lake City, which is also 8 hours and it’s a long drive. So they decided that they wanted to give back to the families in Wyoming cause they knew how it was. So they do fundraisers, like I think last night they just had a bowling [event]. So they do bowling and they have live auctions, silent auctions and all that money goes to the foundation. They help the family go to doctor appointments. So they help pay for your fuel and they help pay for your food for you to be able to go to your doctor’s appointments, cause it takes a lot to go to your doctor appointment in Wyoming. They also have camps for the cancer kids. So they try to get all the cancer kids together and have fun and meet each other and learn about everyone’s different stories. It’s amazing to see.

Stormy Bell: Now, did you attend Jason’s Friends as a camper?

Sami Gray: I did. I did the first camp in 2012 as a camper when I was 12.

Stormy Bell: When you were 12. And you did that for how many years?

Sami Gray: I just did the camp for one year and I volunteered at the camp for two years.

Stormy Bell: Oh, what do you do as a volunteer?

Sami Gray: Volunteer? I mainly did the horses, but I did a lot of the other things.

Stormy Bell: Oh surprise!

Sami Gray: Yeah. But I did a lot of the other things too. Like we do s’mores at night. We get the s’mores together. We get the kids [and] do arts and crafts. We do the trail lighting, pony rides, ATV rides, learn how to fly fish, and learn how to do archery. We just have a whole bunch of activities and we all get involved in it and it’s just really fun.

Stormy Bell: So do you find the community around childhood cancer to be close knit? Do people really reach out and support each other?

Sami Gray: I think so yes. Cause we still keep in contact with a lot of my friends that are cancer survivors also from New Jersey to, I have one in Denver, Colorado, and then I’ve met a lot here in Wyoming through all these programs.

Stormy Bell: Okay. Why do you think people don’t get involved in helping?

Sami Gray: I think some people may not have had a impact in their life for them to feel like they should help someone else. Like I had the cancer and I feel like I wanna help them since I went through it.

Stormy Bell: What would you say to our listeners to encourage them to get involved? What would you say to them?

Sami Gray: Help as much as you can. It’s so cool to put a smile on anyone’s face. I love seeing smiles on people’s faces.

Stormy Bell: That’s awesome. All right now I’m gonna give you a chance to love on your, you can love on all three of them or if you can pick one, just love on it! Tell me why, just, why you love them.

Sami Gray: Well, I love all three of the organizations. All of them are just great and they’re all really personal to me and I know a lot of people personally. They’re just great people. Great, great people.

Stormy Bell: Well Sami, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule. I know you’ve had quite the day, so I appreciate our time. I look forward to having you on at another time and you can tell me more about your journey. All right?

Sami Gray: Yeah!

Stormy Bell: Thank you so much for tuning into The Art of Volunteering. Look forward to seeing you next time. Have a great day.

Show Notes & Links
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia –
Make-A-Wish –
Alex’s Lemonade Stand –
Jason’s Friends –

Join the Connecting Volunteers Worldwide community –
Join the Conversation –

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