Children's National Health System-Volunteering at Children's

Volunteer at Children’s National

It takes only a small amount of time to make a big difference in a child’s life. Children’s National volunteers serve in a variety of ways to assist patients and family members during their hospital visit. Whether it be spending time playing at a patient’s bedside, delivering flowers, sorting donations, filing paperwork, or helping people find their way around the hospital, our volunteers play a critical role in setting the standards of excellence in a healthcare setting.

Our volunteer program also manages Dr. Bear’s Closet, full of donated toys, games, books, and personal care items for children and their families. Donating to Dr. Bear’s Closet is a great way to give back and make a lasting impact on a child’s visit to the hospital.

There’s no better feeling than knowing that you have helped ease what can be a trying time for patients and their families. Please take a look at our opportunities below, along with the program-specific commitments, to see what might be the best fit for you!

Dr. Bear's Closet


Children’s National accepts books, toys, clothing, gift cards, and other non-medical items for our Dr. Bear’s Closet. These donations are given to patients and family members during their hospital visit to provide comfort, offer distractions, and to normalize the hospital setting. The toys make a big difference to the thousands of patients who come through our outpatient clinics, inpatient units, Emergency Department, and Regional Outpatient Centers. Donated toys also allow us to stock our playrooms and provide gifts for birthdays and holidays.

Donation drives are a great way for students or adults to work alone or with their school/community to raise money or in-kind donations that directly support the patients at Children’s National.

Below you can find a list of our most commonly needed items, along with instructions for dropping off donations. Please note that our highest needs are for infants (ages 0-2) and adolescents and young adults (ages 13 and older).

Immediate Needs (all items need to be brand new and seasonally appropriate)

  • Art and craft kits for all ages, including teenagers
  • Crayons
  • Comfortable clothing for all ages (especially underwear and pants with elastic waists)
  • Monetary donations to run an off-site apartment (
  • Gift cards (especially for grocery stores, Target, area hotels, gas stations, and American Express/Visa)
  • Infant toys (especially toys that light up or make noise)
  • Lego sets for all ages
  • Plastic crib mobiles/soothers
  • Small stuffed animals
  • Uno cards

Ongoing Needs (all items need to be brand new and in-season)

  • AA Batteries
  • Android and iPhone 4 and 5 chargers
  • Baby dolls
  • Barbies
  • Blankets
  • Board games
  • Books
  • Bubbles
  • Coloring books, journals, sketch pads, and word searches
  • Event tickets (e.g. sporting event, concert, or performance tickets)
  • Gimp / lanyard
  • iPads or iPad minis
  • Matchbox cars
  • Personal care kits (i.e. toothbrush, toothpaste, travel size shampoo, conditioner, lotion, deodorant, etc.)
  • Portable DVD players and teen movies
  • Stickers
  • Stuffed animals
  • Regular playing cards
  • Video game systems, controllers, and video games (especially X-Box, Wii, and hand-held video games)

Items that we cannot accept

  • Beanie babies
  • Breakable items, porcelain, glass, handmade wooden toys, or collectable items
  • Food/candy/formula
  • Get-well cards (cards must be void of religious, political, and violent content and should avoid terms like get well or feel better — instead use terms like “Sending you Smiles” or “You Rock”)
  • Items that are gift-wrapped (all items need to be checked for appropriateness before giving to a patient)
  • Items that have been exposed to smoke or other strong scents
  • Latex balloons or anything containing latex
  • Medical equipment
  • Play-Dough
  • Stuffed toys more than 18 inches tall
  • Toys, books, or movies with sensitive issues (e.g. violence, politics, holidays, religion, death, divorce, weapons, etc.)
  • Used items

Monetary Donations

Children’s Volunteer Services team accepts monetary donations that are used for unexpected needs for patients and families that are not a part of the operational budget, including clothing, blankets, hotel stays, support of an apartment for out-of-town families (Dr. Bear’s Den), parking vouchers, transportation to and from the hospital, and additional items for Dr. Bear’s Closet when needed.

Please make checks payable to “Children’s National Health System/Dr. Bear’s Closet,” or donate online at

Online Donations

Donate through our online wish list at This website has a direct link to our online wish list under the “Donate” tab. You can also search for Child’s Play Charity — DC under “Find someone’s Wish List” on

Drop-Off Location and Hours

Items that fit the criteria above can be dropped off or mailed to the Volunteer Services office at 111 Michigan Avenue NW, Suite 1180, Washington, DC 20010. Drop-off hours are from 10am to 12pm and 3 to 6pm, Monday through Friday, and 11am to 3pm on the weekends. Please pull into our drop off zone in our parking garage — you are safe to leave your car parked and locked in this area while you bring your items to the Volunteer Services office on the first floor. Unfortunately, we do not have the staff available to pick up donations. For confidentiality and infection control purposes, donors are not able to deliver gifts directly to patients.

You will receive a delivery confirmation slip at the time of delivery and a thank you letter in the mail.

Thanks in advance for your donation!

I Can Help Ambassadors

I Can Help Ambassadors

I Can Help Ambassadors are specially trained to provide world-class customer service to the patients, families, and visitors at Children’s National Health System. Ambassadors are a group of enthusiastic, dedicated and team-oriented volunteers who are committed to providing a warm and welcoming environment to everyone who comes through the hospital doors. These volunteers help make the often anxiety-filled hospital experience a little easier for patients and their families.

I Can Help Ambassadors provide play activities to patients in waiting areas, deliver flowers and gifts, assist staff at the Welcome Desk, escort families to appointments, and assist with various Volunteer Services administrative tasks as well as in assorted office assistant positions throughout the hospital. I Can Help Ambassadors also assist with donation receipt and restocking.

Ambassadors are needed for daytime, evening, and limited weekend placements, and are typically assigned to agreed-upon weekly or monthly time slot.

This program is currently offering volunteers the opportunity to volunteer at the main hospital off of Michigan Ave as well as three Regional Outpatient Centers in MD, DC, and VA:

I Can Help Ambassadors do not perform medical procedures of any kind and receive no information regarding the medical diagnosis, treatment, or prognosis of any patient and this program does not provide the opportunity to shadow physicians, nurses, or other healthcare providers.


I Can Help Ambassadors must commit to six months of service and a minimum of 35 hours.

I Can Help Ambassadors are selected for their roles after an extensive process which includes a(n):

  • Online  Application
  • Personal Interview
  • Medical Clearance
  • Background Check

Please note that we are not currently recruiting for the I Can Help Ambassador volunteer program. Please check back after January 2015 for future recruitment dates. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your interest

Volunteers must be at least 15 years of age to participate in the I Can Help Ambassador Program.

Patient Care Volunteer Program

Patient Care Volunteer Program

Patient Care Volunteers provide play activities and companionship to patients at their bedside and often offer relief to caregivers and family members who may not otherwise feel comfortable stepping out of a room for a break. They also work with patients treated in the Emergency Department or needing surgery, facilitate group activities, work in the Family Library, and assist with pre-surgical tours.

How to Apply

Thank you for your interest in the Patient Care Volunteer program. The application is closed at this time. Please check back in December 2014 for more information about our next round of recruitment.

Thank you for your interest!

Summer High School Volunteer

Summer High School Volunteer

For an eight-week period each summer, high school volunteers help make a difference during their summer break by providing play activities to patients in waiting areas, assisting with special events at the hospital, working with Dr. BearŪ’s Closet donations, and assisting staff at the Welcome Desk.

How old do you have to be to become a high school volunteer?

High school students who are between the ages of 15 to18 are eligible to be considered for our summer program. Applicants must reach age 15 by June 23, 2014 in order to meet eligibility requirements.

My child is considering medical school. Can he or she spend some of their volunteer time shadowing a doctor?

Students do not perform or observe medical or patient care procedures of any kind. Furthermore, our program does not offer the opportunity to shadow physicians, nurses or direct caregivers.

What is the required time commitment for high school summer volunteers?

Each high school student is expected to fulfill a minimum of 75 volunteer hours during the course of the eight-week program.

What days and times can high school summer volunteers work?

Volunteer placements are available Monday through Friday from 10 am to 3 pm.

For more information, contact Volunteer Services at 202-476-2062.

Thank you for your interest in the Summer High School program! Due to an overwhelming number of responses, the application is now closed. We will be recruiting for the summer 2015 program beginning March 1, 2015. If you already filled out an application for the summer 2014 program, please remember to attend your orientation session/interview in May.