Child Life volunteers enrich the lives of patients by using activities and games to help them cope with the hospital environment. All Child Life Volunteers must be 18 years of age or older.

The Child Life program provides age-appropriate, developmentally supportive activities to hospitalized children and teens - many of whom are facing life-threatening illnesses and critical situations. Because of this, consistent caregivers are an essential part of their treatment.

Why volunteer?

Some people volunteer because they’re thinking about becoming Child Life specialists. Other simply enjoy working with kids. Whatever your reason, the Child Life program offers a deeply rewarding opportunity to make a difference in a child’s life.

The Child Life program is special to both volunteers and patients. Many volunteers stay well beyond the minimum commitment requirement, and many children enjoy Child Life so much that they don’t want to leave the hospital.

What will I do as a Child Life volunteer?

You’ll assist Child Life specialists by providing recreational activities to hospitalized children and teens. Other responsibilities may include:

  • Accompanying children to special events in the hospital
  • Working directly with isolated children in the hematology-oncology unit
  • Comforting small children by cuddling them

No prior training is required - just a love for children. We also look for volunteers who are energetic, happy, and outgoing.

If you are accepted into the program, you’ll undergo volunteer training.

Volunteers must commit to a minimum of 100 hours within the first year and be available the same day and time each week. If your schedule is unclear at this time, we recommend contacting us at a later date.

Time periods fill up very quickly, and some days and times may not be available.

Application Process

Thank you for your interest in volunteering at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital. New volunteers need to submit an application, attend orientation, and interview before volunteering.

Do I need to submit a volunteer application?

It depends. If any of the following applies to you, you do not need to submit an application:

  • You’ve served as a volunteer in the past.
  • You recently submitted an application and want to make changes.
  • You submitted an application but were unable to attend orientation.

If you meet any of this criteria, do not submit an application. Instead, please call our office at 717-531-8278.

Who can apply to be a volunteer?

All volunteers must be 16 or older. Volunteers 18 or older should complete an adult application. Volunteers 16 and 17 years old should complete the teen application.

Adult volunteers must be able to commit to a minimum of 100 hours within the first year. 

Teen volunteers must commit to a minimum of 50 hours within the first year. Evening and weekend shifts are available to fulfill this requirement.

Due to mandatory state requirements for volunteering, we are unable to accommodate short term volunteer service. Additionally, we are unable to accommodate court-ordered community service.

What are the application requirements?

All volunteers must submit an online application, attend an orientation, and complete an interview.

Additionally, you must undergo:

Criminal background checks:

  • Pennsylvania Access to Criminal History (PATCH) (online and free of charge)
  • Pennsylvania Child Abuse Clearance (online and free of charge)
  • FBI fingerprinting clearance background check (register online, fee applies)

Health screening:

  • We ask that you provide documentation of vaccinations:
    • Diptheria
    • Measles
    • Mumps
    • Pertussis (Tdap)
    • Rubella (MMR)
    • Tetanus (adult)
    • Tuberculosis (TB)
    • Varicella (Chickenpox)

If you do not have documentation of the above, our Employee Health department can assist you.

Instructions and the required forms will be provided at orientation.

What happens after I fill out the application?

After you've completed your application, an email will be sent to the address you provide on this form. The email will contain the information you entered on your application.

Note that you will not hear directly from Volunteer Services. Please attend the orientation you chose on your application.

What do I need to know about orientation?

Orientations are held at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center are scheduled monthly.

At the end of orientation, you will schedule an interview with the manager of Volunteer Services. Some volunteer positions, such as Child Life and Pet Therapy, require additional interviews or evaluations.

Learn more about volunteer orientation.

What can I expect during the interview?

You will talk with the manager of Volunteer Services about your interests and background. The interview is an opportunity to bring up questions you may have about volunteering and to match your skills and talents with the needs of the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

Because volunteers are asked to commit to work the same day and time each week, we ask that you come to the interview prepared with your availability.

What should I bring to my health screening?

All employee health requirements must be completed before you can start as a volunteer. This means that you will need to provide us with certain documentation or complete the necessary tests to ensure immunity.. There is no financial charge for our services.

At your health appointment, please bring:

  • Any documentation you have for childhood immunizations for MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and varicella (chickenpox). If you do not have records, blood titers will be drawn to prove immunity.

All new volunteers will have blood drawn to ensure that you have not been exposed to TB (tuberculosis).

How long does the application process take?

Mandatory health screenings and background checks could take up to two months to complete, and you will not start your assignment until all are completed.


All new Penn State Health Children’s Hospital volunteers are required to attend an orientation. Learn where it’s held, how to sign up, and what to expect.

How do I sign up for orientation?

Fill out an online volunteer application. On this form, you will indicate which orientation you would like to attend. Please write down the orientation date you select and keep it in a safe place as a reminder of the orientation session you have selected to attend.

After you submit the form, a confirmation will be sent to your email address to let you know we received your application. Please plan to attend the orientation session you selected on your application.

Where is orientation held?

All orientations are held at the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, which is next to the Children’s Hospital. You may park for free at the Centerview parking garage, which is close to the hospital. Shuttle service is also available. Learn more about parking.

Enter through the main entrance of the Medical Center. A volunteer will be there to greet you and register you for orientation

What should I expect?

At the orientation, you’ll learn the mission, values, and guiding principles of the Medical Center, plus general policies and procedures, including:

  • Fire, safety, and infection control prevention
  • HIPAA confidentiality

You’ll also be given an overview of the various volunteer opportunities, which will help guide your decision about where to devote your time.

Health screening and mandatory background checks will be completed before you start a volunteer assignment.

What happens after orientation?

You’ll schedule an interview with the manager of Volunteer Services where more detail will be provided about specific opportunities. Some volunteer positions, such as Child Life and Pet Therapy require additional interviews or evaluations.

I’m a Penn State Health employee. Do I have to attend orientation?

Employees of the Medical Center, the Children’s Hospital, or the College of Medicine are not required to attend an orientation. However, please complete the application form, chose HMC/COM employee from the drop down of orientation dates. You will be contacted to schedule a meeting with the manager of Volunteer Services.