April 11, 2013
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INDIANAPOLIS — University of Iowa softball freshman Krystal Shirrell, a Richard L. Roudebush Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center volunteer, was recently chosen as the recipient of the $20,000 James H. Parke Scholarship for being the outstanding young volunteer from VA Voluntary Services across the nation.
Shirrell began her service as a VA volunteer in the fall of 2011. Her assignments included hosting bingo activities in the domiciliary, serving in the pharmacy, and regularly handing out hats, blankets and cards to hospitalized Veterans. The work Shirrell does outside the medical center, from school children making cards to those in assisted living facilities making blankets and hats, are impacted by the work she does for Veterans.
A member of the Girl Scouts of America, Shirrell received the Gold Award recently and, along with eight other Scouts, met with President Barack Obama to discuss Veteran homelessness.
“The statistics are overwhelming. No one fighting for our country shouldn’t have a roof over their head,” said Shirrell. “I encourage people to help and realize there is an issue.”
Shirrell shares an experience she had at her first Christmas volunteering at the Indianapolis domiciliary for homeless Veterans. A Veteran asked if he could have the Monopoly board game as his bingo prize. He had two children and wished he could have more of a presence in their lives. She told him he could have the board game and he said, “I want to give this to my son for Christmas. This way he will have a present and I think he will really like it.” It was in that moment she realized where her heart belongs and she gained the understanding for those who have less than her and for those who deserve so much more.
In order for students to make a personal connection with Veterans, Shirrell contacted the local VA Voluntary Service to arrange field trips. On one trip, she accompanied a group of 50 middle school students to the medical center to deliver blankets, art, and thank you pictures. The students shook hands with Veterans, heard their stories, and thanked them for their service to our country. The impact was priceless as evidenced by student reflections. One said, “This makes me want to serve more. I would like to take it to another level.” Shirrell’s leadership in creating this project is just one of the many reasons that make her an outstanding student volunteer.
Shirrell is a leader in the classroom, athletics, and the community. VA Voluntary Service staff praise her for her independence and ability to multi-task while remaining an honors student and superb athlete.
She has also continued her volunteer efforts to the local VA facility in Iowa City.