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Everyday miracles: Recreation and Leisure Administration student brings smiles to young patients

November 22, 2016
Alicia Bowman
Alicia Bowman '17

To Alicia Bowman '17, a smile on a child’s face is the best payment for a semester’s worth of work.

The York College of Pennsylvania Recreation and Leisure Administration senior has been interning since September with the Children’s Miracle Network at the Penn State Children’s Hospital, where the nonprofit helps fund equipment, research and services for patients.

It can be emotional work to see children undergo chemotherapy or practically live in a hospital room. But Bowman said it’s rewarding to be there to see a child relax and sport a big grin – like during a Halloween party earlier this fall.

“Everyone dressed up and had a good time,” Bowman said. “To see the kids put on Halloween costumes and not worry about what medicines they have to take or if they’re getting set for a surgery – it really makes it all worth it.”

Experience beyond the classroom

For Bowman, her internship is real-world experience that will prove invaluable after she graduates this spring.

She doesn’t spend her days in classrooms. Instead, she works 40 hours a week at the Children’s Miracle Network, sometimes more when circumstances call for it.

The internship is a requirement for the degree in Recreational and Leisure Administration that the 23-year-old Bowman is pursuing.

It’s an expansive major that can lead to a number of careers, said Dr. Julie Saville, the program coordinator. And the internship component is especially important.

“In Recreation, they’re looking at your experiences,” Saville said. “These agencies want to know what you can do, and those strengths go well beyond the classroom.”

Students can pursue careers in Recreational Therapy and work in clinical or community settings helping people with disabilities through recreation. There’s also a Recreation Management side of the program that can result in jobs planning events for municipal parks departments, organizing festivals or planning and implementing youth development programs for local nonprofit agencies.

That’s where Bowman’s focus lies.

During her time with the Children’s Miracle Network, she helped with the 21st Annual Miracle Ball, a black-tie gala fundraiser that drew more than 500 guests this year. Bowman was assigned to the Messages of Hope station, which gave guests the opportunity to purchase personalized messages in honor of a patient, staff member or child in their life. She is also assisting with the Neiman Marcus Runway Show and Luncheon, coming up December 2 at Hotel Hershey.

Stepping outside the comfort zone

Each day brings new challenges organizing fundraisers, working on promotional materials or hitting the road to meet with corporate partners.

“I’m always busy, and I love that I have the opportunity to do something different each day,” Bowman said.

Bowman also has served as the liaison between the Children’s Miracle Network and national partners that ask customers to donate to the charity when they check out.

“That’s really pulled her out of her comfort zone,” Saville said. “Stepping outside one’s comfort zone and gaining new skills is what makes the internship so important in a student’s professional development.”

Bowman has honed her skills while providing a valuable service to the employer. The Children’s Miracle Network has raved about her, Saville said.

And thanks to the internship, Bowman is well on her way to achieving her goals.

A career working with children

Bowman has always wanted to work with kids. She planned to major in Education, but after she had organized a community fundraiser to benefit the National Cancer Institute, vendors said she should consider a career in event planning.

As Bowman mulled a change, a professor directed her to Saville. She was happy to explain how the Recreation and Leisure Administration program could still put her on a path to a career helping children.

“She gave me a huge list of things that I could do,” Bowman said. “I could plan special events, work on a cruise ship or organize events for kids. The possibilities were endless, and I was really surprised by that.”

Bowman switched her major a year and a half ago. She hasn’t looked back and hopes to make a living planning special events and fundraisers.

Interning with the Children’s Miracle Network has instilled a passion for nonprofit work. To her, there’s nothing like helping children, especially those who need a chance to forget their problems and just be kids.

“The Children’s Miracle Network has grown very close to my heart,” Bowman said. “It’s really hard to see children be sick and have to go through obstacles. I want to do anything I can do to help make a difference.”