Caitlyn Hendrickson, Mayo Clinic Cares volunteer, shares how volunteerism changed her life

Caitlyn Hendrickson, a student in the Echocardiography Program at the Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences, volunteers for Play for Patrick heart screening events held at Minnesota high schools to help keep student athletes safe. She shares how her volunteer activities helped her choose her career path.

On Nov. 14, 2014, Patrick Schoonover, a teenager and hockey player from Apple Valley, Minnesota, collapsed on the ice after scoring a goal. First responders on the scene were not able to revive him. In the months that followed, it was determined that Patrick's early death was caused by multiple heart defects.

His memory lives on through the Patrick Schoonover Heart Foundation and events made possible by the foundation, such as Play for Patrick, which is dedicated to heart screenings for student athletes to detect defects early and save lives.

A team of volunteers from Mayo Clinic Cardiology and the Echo Lab help out at these events, using Mayo Clinic Cares to coordinate their involvement. Mayo Clinic Cares connects Mayo Clinic staff to volunteer opportunities in the community. Staff can volunteer on an individual basis or as a team with their colleagues.

For Caitlyn Hendrickson, a senior in the Echocardiography program at the Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences, volunteering helped guide her career choice.

"I have truly found the career my soul is so passionate about," Hendrickson says. "A huge reason for that is the Play for Patrick Foundation."

Hendrickson shares what it means for her to be a volunteer with Play for Patrick and how the experience has changed her life.

How did you get involved with Play for Patrick?

I've always had an interest in the heart. My mom worked in Cardiovascular Diseases for over 20 years, which was a big reason for my interest in cardiology. During that time, she heard about the Play for Patrick Foundation and decided to volunteer at one of the 2016 screenings, where I was also screened.

What inspired you to volunteer?

After I decided to pursue echocardiography, I started looking into ways to become more involved in the field. As I finished my prerequisite classes, I began applying for the Echo program. My mom mentioned how amazing it would be to volunteer at a screening so I could see Echo in action and see what the job involved.

What did you first do as a volunteer?

As a nonmedical volunteer, I did data entry for the EKG technicians. I was able to sneak away during breaks, observe and ask questions in the Echo tent. Seeing the information and knowledge that screenings can provide people and their families was something I knew I wanted as a career.

What was your experience like?

The screenings offer such a welcoming and positive environment. When you hear "heart screening," you typically think of doctors, lab coats and medical equipment. The screenings have a completely different atmosphere. They are held at a high school or community center, and all the doctors and volunteers wear Play for Patrick shirts and make you feel extremely comfortable.

What would you say to others thinking about volunteering in general?

Do it. If my story can interest just one person to consider echocardiography, volunteer for a screening, or just simply spread the word about the Play for Patrick Foundation, it would be just a small way for me to give back to a cause that has impacted me so greatly.

What inspiration did you get through volunteering?

After volunteering at multiple screenings, I have seen the impact these screenings can have on people and their families. Sudden cardiac death is much more common than anyone thinks, and these screenings have saved so many lives by detecting heart conditions that otherwise would have gone undetected and untreated.

More information

If your organization has volunteer needs, consider sharing those through the new volunteer platform for Mayo Clinic staff. Mayo Clinic Cares supports Mayo Clinic's mission and values by connecting staff with local nonprofit organizations that have volunteer needs. 

To register your organization and post your volunteer needs, visit the Mayo Clinic Cares link on the Community Engagement website.