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Volunteering After Injury

April 26, 2022

After a life-changing injury like a brain injury or spinal cord injury, many people find themselves searching to rediscover purpose, wellness and ways they can reconnect to their communities.

Volunteering after injury has been proven to have positive effects on both physical and mental health as well as overall wellbeing. According to a study with adults with SCI, individuals who participate in volunteering report higher levels of overall quality of life, current adjustment and general health with fewer depressive symptoms and fewer hospitalizations than those who don’t volunteer (Yuen et al. 2004). There were also significantly greater improvements reported in life satisfaction and self-perceived success in a study of adults who participated in volunteering after TBI (Payne et al. 2020).

Helping others has been associated with improved health, happiness, self-esteem, reduced stress and decreased depression. It has also been linked to fewer hospital readmissions and development of secondary conditions, areas that people often have difficulty with after spinal cord or brain injury (World Health Organization).

“Life after injury can be challenging to navigate, as life as one once knew is no longer present,” Hayley Medina, MOT OTR/L, CEES, an occupational therapist at Craig Hospital, says. “Working in Community Reintegration and helping our patients volunteer in their communities, I have seen the impact that volunteer opportunities can have on someone’s life. It’s not only a way to give back to the community, but it also allows individuals to find a new sense of purpose, fulfillment, build relationships and establish a newfound happiness.”

Craig Hospital Volunteer Kynd Kits


How can you benefit from volunteering?

  • Connecting to others
  • Improving your sense of wellbeing
  • Improving your physical health
  • Evaluating your future work options
  • Finding enjoyment
  • Being an agent of change in your community

"Volunteering can have a significant positive impact on our patients' wellbeing. It can be a bridge to fill the void of not being able to return to work or a stepping stone to assist with employment. Volunteering can also be a means to provide a sense of purpose and a way to contribute and establish or maintain relationships," Casey Pfister, MSOTR/L, CEES, CBIS, Craig Community Reintegration Specialist, says. "Many of my clients have been limited in their ability to participate in some activities outside of the context of their family or rehabilitation after injury. But after participating in volunteering, I can see a notable change in my clients' demeanor and the way they carry themselves. Many of my clients share that they enjoy getting out of the house to volunteer, that it gives them purpose and a place where someone depends on them. My role in Community Reintegration has been so rewarding. I view it as a path for clients to recognize new possibilities after injury."

Ways to Volunteer in Your Community

There are many ways to volunteer in your community that can vary in degrees of participation, from one-time projects to ongoing commitments with both in-person and virtual opportunities:

    • Project Helping
      • Intermittent opportunities with various organizations
      • Assisting at food banks
      • Sorting donations, like medical supplies, clothes and food
      • Tutoring
      • Gardening
      • Assembling Kynd Kits from home
    • Volunteermatch.com
      • Virtual opportunities from home
      • Animal shelters and pet adoption organizations
    • Spark the Change Colorado
      • Talking book library
      • Dumb Friends League
    • Additional Ways to Get Started:
      • Google volunteer opportunities “near me”
      • Contact local recreational centers, churches or community organizations for opportunities
      • Contact your Craig Hospital clinical care manager for more information
      • Volunteer Match Test

    Yuen, Hon Keung, Burik, Jerry, & Krause, James. (2004). Physical and Psychosocial Well-Being Among Adults with Spinal Cord Injury: The Role of Volunteer Activities. Topics in Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation, 9(4), 19-25.

    Lisa Payne, Lenore Hawley, Clare Morey, Jessica M. Ketchum, Angela Philippus, Mitch Sevigny, Cynthia Harrison-Felix & Ed Diener (2020): Improving well-being aftertraumatic brain injury through volunteering: a randomized controlled trial, Brain Injury