Children who are dealing with serious illnesses can experience a range of emotions, from scared to bored…Scared by unfamiliar surroundings and symptoms, bored by hours that drag by without their normal routine.

So, imagine how awesome it would be to have a smiling face peek into your room with the offer to play a game, create an art project, or just hang out and chat.

Meet Madison Sauerteig. The senior Psychology major from Cicero, Indiana, spends a dozen or so hours a month doing just that with patients at Riley Hospital for Children, ranging in age from infant to 18 years old. Her love of kids and thoughts of being a child life specialist prompted her to volunteer. While her career goals have shifted a bit—maybe the title “guidance counselor” is in her future—she has put in more than 150 hours to date.

The experience, which began as a volunteer opportunity that would translate well on her resume, blossomed into a passion that has spawned some valuable lessons, said Sauerteig.

“At first, I was a little scared to go into a patient’s room, but I’ve learned that it’s good to be that smiling face,” she said. “And I’ve also learned that not all kids have their parents—they have work, other children…things that take them away from Riley. Which makes what volunteers do even more important.”

Madison is a second-generation Bulldog, with parents Jeff ’87 and Wendy (Pfanstiel) ’89, also graduating from Butler University. The family attended numerous basketball games at Hinkle and other campus events when she was growing up. Madison says that familiarity—as well as its proximity to home and family—were major factors in her decision to attend.