Atlanta, GA,
09:34 AM

Husband and Wife Share a Commitment to Volunteering at Shepherd Center

Jason and Kate Barnes naturally share many experiences together – training for marathons, hiking, fishing at Lake Lanier, going to church and more. But the experience they most enjoy sharing is volunteering at Shepherd Center.

The couple first learned about Shepherd Center through Spencer Smith, the brother of Alana Shepherd, co-founder of the hospital. Spencer and Jason are military veterans who belong to the same American Legion Post, and about two years ago, Spencer suggested touring the hospital. After the tour Jason and Kate were inspired to become regular volunteers and have continued to do so for the past two years. Kate’s volunteer role eventually led to a career change, and she now works as a development assistant at the Shepherd Center Foundation.

Jason served in the U.S. Army for nine years and then later worked in business-to-business sales. However, after volunteering at Shepherd Center and witnessing the life-changing work performed at the hospital, his focus was redirected toward doing something more meaningful. He is now working toward attending medical school in 2014 and hopes to specialize in orthopedics.

“I enjoyed sales and marketing, but ultimately wanted something more personally and professionally satisfying,” Jason says. “The more I volunteer with patients and therapists, the more I realize how important it is to be a part of an organization like Shepherd Center.”

One project Jason has particularly enjoyed while volunteering at Shepherd Center is his work with Herndon Murray, M.D., medical director of Shepherd Center’s Spinal Cord Injury Program. Jason helped gather and analyze data for a patient database that Dr. Murray incorporated into a presentation to help prevent spinal cord injuries sustained by teenagers and young adults in diving accidents – accidents that are catastrophic, yet preventable with better education and awareness.

As regular volunteer breakfast feeders, Jason and Kate arrive at the hospital by 6:45 a.m. to feed breakfast to patients needing assistance. Beyond the logistics of serving patients their meals, Jason and Kate often develop meaningful relationships with patients, and that helps set a positive tone for their day.

In the past, another volunteer experience the couple enjoyed was assisting therapists and patients with the Lokomat, robotics-assisted treadmill training. As volunteers, they monitored the computer that controls the pace, speed and duration of the Lokomat session for each patient – an important role, as it enables therapists to focus solely on the progress of the patient.

Jason and Kate say volunteering at Shepherd Center is enjoyable and fulfilling to do as a couple. “Something as simple as helping a patient with breakfast has not only enabled us to make a difference in someone else’s life, but also helped us gain a new perspective on our own lives,” Kate says. “It is really rewarding to be able to share our volunteer experiences with one another and witness miracles every day.”

Alex Seblatnigg, associate director of Volunteer Services at Shepherd Center says: “Watching Jason and Kate volunteer and become more involved at Shepherd Center has been a joy. Both have inspiring roads ahead, and it has been nice to watch them progress through their journey.”

Photo by Louie Favorite

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.