Why Members Make Good Volunteers
Jacob Tribull, Wellness House member and volunteer, spoke with us regarding his involvement as a counselor in our kids’ summer camp and his own father’s experience with cancer. Jacob went to St. Mary’s High School in Annapolis. It was there he met an admissions counselor named Tina Allen who was very involved in volunteering at Wellness House of Annapolis.
He explained his own passion for volunteering that developed after his sister was hit by a car at the age of 7 leaving her disabled. Jacob recalled his memory of growing up in a rehabilitation environment and being passionate about this type of volunteer work. Tina’s interest was piqued by Jacob’s experience with his sister and with volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House in Baltimore. She saw an instant parallel between these experiences and the work of Wellness House.
Tina graciously offered to introduce him to the staff, and a connection was instantly made. “What was really interesting is that this was before my own family’s experience with cancer. I had volunteered for two summer camps before my dad was diagnosed with cancer,” said Jacob.
His father started getting sick around 2018 after Jacob had been volunteering at Wellness House. Jacob describes a visit that they were on to check out a potential college. “My dad was constantly getting sick. We were on a recruiting visit, and my dad passed out and got really sick. We came home the next day after that visit, and he was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer.”
From 2018 to the end of 2019, Jacob’s father battled many issues resulting from the cancer. During this time, Jacob expanded beyond volunteering to participate in our services as a member at the Wellness House. He learned different ways of coping with the stress from his father’s diagnosis and turning it into something positive.
Watching the kids in camp is something that inspired him to become more resilient. “There is really a heightened level of maturity with the kids that I’ve seen at these camps compared to other camps that I’ve worked at in the summer. You can see that when the parents come to pick up the kids, the kids already have their backpacks on like they’re ready to go,” said Jacob. He noticed that the kids had no problem transitioning from their normal day-to-day activities to supporting their family members who were experiencing a cancer diagnosis.
Wellness House offered Jacob many things as a member, but what he didn’t expect was to also learn from the kids as a volunteer camp counselor. “I was doing a lot of things for my dad. I learned how to mix his medicines, how to prepare different bandages for him, and all of the stuff that comes along with cancer. I was also able to learn to use what I use with the kids at the camp, to flip that switch. For example, when it was my senior night, and my dad had been released from the hospital, I was able to flip the switch and walk him across the field and back off the field back into the stands.” When Jacob says “flip that switch,” he is referring to having to pivot from the role of a child into the role of caretaker or supportive family member of someone diagnosed with cancer.
He describes how juggling the responsibilities that come along with cancer is just as important as not letting them consume your life. Jacob said, “People don’t realize that you can still have a life outside of cancer, especially as a family member dealing with it.”
In 2019 his father was finally declared cancer-free after a 13-hour long surgery, but unfortunately, this past year he was re-diagnosed following a CT scan of his liver that was performed after a car accident. The doctors found that the cancer had metastasized to his liver, so he is now back in chemotherapy.
Jacob and his family continue to be hopeful, volunteering and relying on the services and support of Wellness House of Annapolis throughout their journey with cancer. Jacob said, “You can trust these people at this house. Everyone’s going through the same thing you’re going through, so it provides an awesome support network of people that want to help.”
Jacob Tribull plays division 3 football at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. and is also studying biomedical engineering. He has a minor in chemistry and is currently on track to specialize in pre-med with the goal to eventually go to medical school. When he’s not playing football or studying, he’s spending time with his family, helping with errands and cooking meals.