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"I Have Found My Passion": A NICU Volunteer's Story


March 10, 2015
Topics: NICU (Newborn Intensive Care Unit)



paul blog image
Paul Looney volunteering in the NICU at Riley Hospital for Children

Volunteering is something that most of us have done at some time or another. There is always a need to give back to one’s community. At Riley, volunteering is different than most of the other opportunities I have been involved with. From the beginning, I accepted a position with Dena Vincent in the library taking a cart filled with books to the rooms; sometimes I read to the kids that could not leave, or who just wanted to have you in the room with them. Most of the younger siblings loved it when the book cart came around! 

Working in the library evolved into working with Child Life Specialist Karen Hufford in the Thursday night teen program. I had so much enjoyment with all of it; listening and talking with the teens about anything and everything. They would compare stories and found such a common thread with each other, not only from being at Riley, but also at their high schools and friendships. There are many artistic and creative kids out there as I witnessed while working in the program.

After the teen program, I moved into the NICU as a volunteer. Child Life Specialist Angela Brennecke, Music Therapist Ann Hannan and all the nurses are so great to work with. Once a week, as a NICU volunteer, I get to spend time with the babies who need some extra care and support. Since the beginning of my volunteer experience with Riley, my ultimate goal has been to work in the NICU.  

I get to hold these little babies to hopefully provide them with comfort from their daily stress of trying to get better. I always love to see their sleeping faces when they give you a “sleep smile.” Rocking the babies is just one aspect of my job. Sometimes I sit at the bedside while a nurse completes health checks and I help keep the babies calm. I am able to talk with the nurses to better understand how the babies are progressing or how to spot when things are going on with them. Witnessing the nurses’ caring for these little ones is truly amazing. 

I am often asked about how I became interested in the NICU. My oldest grandson was born in St. Louis and was considered premature. He ended up having a pneumothorax (collapsed lung) so he was admitted into the NICU at the local hospital. While we were able to hold him in the NICU, I noticed other people who came in and rocked the babies, and I felt that I would love to do that. 

I have found my passion: serving the kids at Riley, especially the NICU babies.


Paul Looney

Paul Looney is a National Construction Support manager for AT&T, where he has worked for more than 36 years. He and his wife of 25 years, Rosie, have three grown children and two grandsons. Along with volunteering in the Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health NICU, Paul loves taking on do-it-yourself projects at home and at family members’ houses, working in his lawn and garden and chasing his grandsons.


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