Each year since 2005, United Rehabilitation Services (URS), a Dayton-based organization that provides daytime and after-school care for children and adults with disabilities, and other special needs, has awarded the Berry Volunteer of the Year Service Award to a volunteer within the agency. The award is sponsored by Charles D. Berry, a longtime supporter of URS.
In 2019, Kelly Haller, who at the time was second-year Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine medical student, received the Berry Volunteer of the Year Service Award for her service to the organization in 2018-2019. Haller logged more than 95 hours in the LatchKey classroom for school-aged children with the URS youth services program.
Lora Davenport, volunteer services specialist with URS, describes the winner of this award as someone who has a positive attitude and is respectful of clients and staff. Haller was nominated for the award by Erica Cooper, the teacher in the classroom where she volunteered.
“This award is for a volunteer who has gone above and beyond with their service to URS,” Dennis G. Grant, URS executive director, said during the award ceremony presentation. “The children love having her in the classroom, and she has developed great relationships with them.”
“The majority of the children I worked with were on the autism spectrum. Many of these children were nonverbal,” said Haller. “The most satisfying aspect was knowing the children were excited to see me when I came into their classroom. It meant a lot when I would see them smile when they saw me or when I interacted with them.”
This experience helped Haller confirm her appreciation for working with children with autism and other developmental delays or medical complexities. “I believe I can connect well with these children, and I hope to help advocate for such children throughout my personal and professional life,” she said.
Now a third-year medical student, Haller, who is from Strongsville, Ohio, is interested in pediatrics, especially developmental and behavioral pediatrics, which would allow her to provide care for children with needs similar to those she worked with at URS.
Haller began volunteering at URS in August 2018, a month after starting her medical education at the Boonshoft School of Medicine and did so regularly until this past winter.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, URS shut down temporarily and then limited the roles of volunteers. “I do hope volunteers are allowed to return sometime before I graduate, as I have formed such wonderful relationships with the children, staff and families and have truly missed them all,” said Haller.
Volunteering at URS might have started for Haller as fulfilling a school requirement, but it turned into something extremely meaningful and life-changing for her and all those she worked with.