Katerpillar Kids Volunteer Spotlight: Rudy Alanis

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LMU student helps children deal with grief and loss at Katerpillar Kids Camp

Rudy Alanis is a second-year occupational therapy student at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee. His three-year program includes two years of learning in the classroom and one year of rotations working in the field. He will graduate in May 2025.

Alanis and his classmates are encouraged by their professors to volunteer in the community to vary their experiences working with adults and children in all walks of life.

“I love helping others,” he says. “Occupational therapy focuses on using the patient’s likes and dislikes to help treat them and help them adapt certain things. For example, it’s hard for a healthy person to imagine not being able to easily brush your teeth. As a provider, it’s rewarding to help someone who has a condition or injury that makes these basic tasks more difficult to help them overcome that adversity.”

When Alanis sought out volunteer opportunities in the community, he was pleasantly surprised to discover Katerpillar Kids Camp, offered by Variety East Tennessee and Covenant Health. He has since volunteered twice at the camp.

Rudy Alanis, Katerpillar Kids Camp volunteer
Rudy Alanis, occupational therapy student at Lincoln Memorial University and Katerpillar Kids Camp volunteer

About Katerpillar Kids Camp

Katerpillar Kids Camp is designed to help children who are grieving the loss of a loved one. For over 25 years, the camp has helped children in the East Tennessee community experience grief in a supportive environment while making new friends and learning that they are not alone in their experience with loss.

Alanis says, “I believe focusing on mental health and how to cope with the grieving process can be taught at a young age. As a volunteer, you’re entrusted to a child who has experienced loss. It’s our job to offer comfort and engage in conversations. Camp helps the kids open up and see they’re not alone. I want to give thanks to all the past volunteers and those who paved the way to provide this service to children.”

After his first camp experience, Alanis says he was inspired by the camp activities. “It wasn’t as emotional as I thought – camp doesn’t only focus on the hard emotions, but also helps kids deal with the process of grief through play, activities and art. Group play was the best ways to ease their mind and help the campers get comfortable with everyone around them. It was a space that encouraged them to not hold in their emotions, but also see that they had other options to express themselves besides talking.”

He is grateful to the campers for sharing their stories and recognizing there’s not “one right way” to express themselves. He says, “I hope they continue to grow and can give hope to others.” He also hopes the campers can connect with each other to continue the friendship bonds they formed at camp.

“If I can reach just one person or help them out in any way during a hard time, then it will have been a day well spent.”

For information on volunteering or registering a child, visit CovenantHealth.com.

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About the Author

Covenant Health

Headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee, Covenant Health is a community-owned, healthcare enterprise committed to providing the right care at the right time and place. Covenant Health is the area’s largest employer and has more than 11,000 compassionate caregivers, expert clinicians, and dedicated employees and volunteers.

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