Riley wagon roundup is this volunteer’s special job



Kurt Web

HANDS in Autism program through IU School of Medicine sponsors several positions for volunteers with autism

Kurt Bassett’s booming voice enters the room before he does.

“Good morning, my dear!”

That’s how he greets Susan Schwarz, coordinator of volunteer services for Riley Hospital for Children, and his boss.

Bassett, 34, has a cheerful attitude and an engaging personality that make him a natural for his volunteer job at Riley.

He rounds up the signature red wagons that patients’ families use to transport their little ones to and from appointments in the hospital and its outpatient center.

It’s an important job, he says, and he carries a binder full of instructions to make sure he does everything just right.

Bassett, who has autism, was placed in his volunteer job through HANDS in Autism, a program operated by the IU School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry. The interdisciplinary training and resource center offers support services for those on the autism spectrum and their families.

Among those services is the chance to learn job skills through a volunteer role.

Schwarz worked with HANDS to identify and offer placements at Riley. Volunteers get intensive training through HANDS, then go through Riley’s volunteer orientation.

It’s not just a partnership for outreach, Schwarz said. “These volunteers train and onboard just like any other Riley volunteer and contribute valuable services that impact our ability to provide quality care to the patients and families at Riley.”

Bassett, who works with a transitional specialist employed through the School of Medicine, has been in his wagon roundup role for more than a year now. He started off working every Friday but recently added another day to his weekly schedule. The activity and interaction with people suit him.

“I love it,” he said. “Let’s do it!”

And with that, he set about on his search for wagons and wheelchairs, starting on the top floor near the parking garage, where families often park wagons after appointments. The goal is to get most corralled back at the main entrance, but always leaving a couple on each level of the garage so that parents can find one easily before entering the hospital.

In his volunteer application, Bassett wrote: “I think this opportunity would be fun to meet new people, meet parents and their children, and to help make their days a little better.”

He’s doing that and more, Schwarz said.

“He’s quite social. He’s a wonderful, impactful volunteer. This is a big, big job,” she added. “Wagons are the mode of transportation for every patient in this hospital. They represent Riley.”

And so do volunteers like Bassett.

-- By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist