> 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!

Volunteer as a Group

As a Group

(ages 18 and older)

Patient Play Dates

Please Note: Our Main Atrium is currently under construction, and we are not able to host patient play dates at this time. Construction will end in the fall and we will resume play dates at that time. Thank you!

Volunteer Services works with community partners to provide opportunities for patients and their families to socialize and play in the Atrium of our hospital. We work with a wide range of groups to host Patient Play Dates, including local businesses, religious groups, schools, and other organizations. Often, Patient Play Dates involve arts and crafts activities, karaoke, game nights, carnivals, or movie showings. Community partners are responsible for providing the materials and the volunteers at these events.

Patient Play Dates are two-hour events that usually feature 8-15 visitors from an organization (everyone must be age 18 and over), and a variety of patients from our outpatient clinics, inpatient units, and their siblings.

  • Weekdays (Monday through Friday) between 10am and 3pm or 5:30 to 7:30pm
  • Weekends (Saturday and Sunday) between 11am and 3pm

We encourage groups to find materials and activities that are engaging and are different and unique from what the patients might be able to do at home or when in their rooms. When looking at arts and crafts, Oriental Trading Company is a popular place to find inexpensive, fun activities!

This year, we're also encouraging groups to bring in donations from our online wish list. You don't need to go overboard — just what your group is able to come up with!

How to Apply

With our Main Atrium currently under construction, and we are not able to accept patient play date applications at this time. Construction will end in the fall and we will resume play dates at that time.

When filling out the information, please give us as many possible dates (at least three options) that would work for your group. Please note that we recommend scheduling at least a few weeks in advance. Due to the busy holiday season, we do not schedule Patient Play Dates between Thanksgiving and the first week in January. During flu season, we might have restrictions on our ability to schedule events.

Thank you for thinking of our kids. We look forward to working with your group!

Dr. Bear's Closet

Dr. Bear's Closet

How to Donate to Dr. Bear®’s Toy Closet

Every day, a deck of cards, a doll or a stuffed animal puts a smile on the face of a child who hasn’t smiled in quite some time. Dr. Bear®’s  Closet has donated toys, games, books and other items that help boost the spirits of patients of all ages. A well-stocked Dr. Bear®'s Closet ensures that every patient has a gift for holidays, birthdays and most importantly, a little something to serve as a reward for their courage in fighting an illness.

The closet provides items to thousands of patients who are treated in Children’s inpatient units, the Emergency Department and Regional Outpatient Centers, and the Health Centers. Toys also help stock playrooms in the hospital.

Playing is essential when a child is undergoing difficult treatment or procedures due to illness. Providing a new game or toy and watching a smile light up a child’s face is a special moment for families, staff and volunteers.

A list of donation guidelines for Dr. Bear®’s Closet is listed below. Children’s Volunteer Services Department accepts all donations, including monetary contributions, gift cards and certificates from area stores. Checks should be made payable to "Children’s National Medical Center/Dr. Bear®’s  Closet."

Guidelines for Donating

Children’s Department of Consumer Support and Volunteer Services accepts a wide range of donations throughout the year to stock Dr. Bear®’s Closet. Please see our wish list for donation suggestions.

Please be advised that we cannot accept recalled toys or games. The U.S. Consumer Support and Safety Commission has a full list of recalled items.

Please make sure your donations:

  • Are NEW (toys, stuffed animals, blankets, or clothes) to meet the hospital’s infection control requirements.
  • Meet consumer product safety codes a toy’s package will say if it meets the codes.
  • Include only non-toxic materials (toys or craft kits with glue or markers) the package will say if it is.

We CANNOT accept:

  • Spark-producing toys due to fire regulations.
  • Latex (or rubber) balloons and materials because of latex allergy precautions and other safety factors.
  • Toys made of glass or brittle plastic .
  • Items with violent, frightening or adult-rated themes.
  • Toys that can break or have sharp edges toys should be sturdy.

Although the “dollar stores” have bargains, sometimes the quality is absent. We would rather have one quality toy that meets safety standards rather than five inexpensive ones that don’t.

Mailing Instructions

Please send all donations to: Volunteer Services, Room 1180
Children’s National Medical Center
111 Michigan Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20010-2970

  • Please make checks payable to "Children's National Medical Center / Dr. Bear®’s Closet"
  • Remember to include your name and address when mailing donations so we can send an acknowledgment of your donation.

For more information, contact the Department of Consumer Support and Volunteer Services at 202-476-2062.

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. Bear®’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.