Help Us Welcome Emma Hayes to the Team!

Emma Hayes first joined the RAF Knoxville team as a spring intern, but – after a brief stint studying abroad in Spain – she returned as our new program coordinator. She shared with us what brought her back to RAF and why the mission is so important to her –

I spent most of high school in the hospital with my sister, Claire. She had bone cancer and later leukemia. She received most of her care at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, from which she was formally discharged when her treatments ultimately stopped working. I hadn’t returned to ETCH until 5 years later on the anniversary of her death. Knowing I wanted to close that chapter of my life for good, my family at RAF arranged a special delivery for me to commemorate Claire’s day. I visited the place I spent so much time with my dear sister and even delivered to her specific room.

RAF heals so many people every day, including me. I could not be more thankful for such an opportunity, and this connection is one reason why I’m so dedicated to RAF.

Our mission is centered around valuing the “forgotten” or “overlooked.” So often, people in hospitals or assisted living facilities are left by themselves because their families aren’t around or aren’t involved. Life gets busy and people can’t seem to find the time to be in hospitals with their loved ones for extended periods of time. Having spent so long in the hospital with my sister for cancer, I understand the ebb and flow of visitors and compassion, and in the times of ebb, RAF comes in. We stop by to remind people that they matter, that they deserve a kind gesture. That matters so much.

I am constantly motivated by the people and volunteers that I work with. Coming into work doesn’t seem like “work” when I’m surrounded by such positive and generous people. Our volunteers are constant reminders of the good in the world. I am constantly engulfed in selflessness and gratitude from people of all walks of life, and that keeps me motivated every day.

Our society criticizes the overall pessimism and negativity we live in, but so few people take the time and energy to break that stigma. RAF operates all week, every week to spread beauty and joy throughout the community. This is so valuable as an organization because we make these heartfelt connections with strangers.

~ Emma