Centers for Excellence

Marist/IBM Joint Study Students Make Comfort Kits for Hospitalized Children

Bryan Terry, Assistant Director of Content Marketing & Communications
Volunteers show the crafts they made as part of the Marist/IBM Joint Study project for the Histiocytosis Association. Photo courtesy of Christy Schroeder, IBM.

February 20, 2024 — Recently, Marist/IBM Joint Study interns traded their servers and routers for scissors and markers to help brighten the days of children with life-threatening illnesses.

On Feb. 7, the group of six interns, alumni and community members created comfort kits for the Histiocytosis Association. The volunteers made creative superhero capes and masks, beaded friendship bracelets, origami figures, tangram sets, and inspirational cards, which will be given to hospitalized children and their families. 

Histiocytic disorders result from an excess of white blood cells which can cause damage to tissues, tumors, and other negative health impacts.

“Volunteering develops empathy and compassion, fosters cooperation and goodwill, and builds a sense of community, purpose, and belonging,” said Christy Schroeder, Program Director for the Marist/IBM program. “Creating the comfort kits gave the group a feeling of satisfaction and self-worth knowing that we made positive differences in these children’s lives and helped to brighten their day.”

All six of the current Marist/IBM Joint Study interns volunteered to help with the project, which was coordinated in collaboration with the volunteer engagement company Goodera. For students like Ian Marsh '24, a double major in computer science and cybersecurity working on academic applications of Large Language Models, the experience exemplified the commitment to service that comes with being a Red Fox.

“While at Marist, we often get caught up in the work and trying to get a job, but we forget that we are also here to serve the community,” said Ian. “This experience helping kids with immune disorders was another positive example of how I can help people around me.”

Image of students and alumni sitting at tables making comfort kits.
Students and alumni of the Marist/IBM Joint Study program join community members to make comfort kits for the Histiocytosis Association. Photo courtesy of Christy Schroeder, IBM. 

In addition to the service aspect of the project, the event provides an opportunity for the Marist/IBM interns to network with alumni of the program. 

Lillian McPadden '25, a computer science major interning in the area of cybersecurity, said that it is a great way to foster connections in ways that go beyond the typically professionally-oriented conversations and topics.

“Spending time with alumni while working on this community service project was nice because no matter what position everyone held, we were all able to bond over this fun and meaningful activity that was benefitting others,” said Lillian. 

Marist and IBM have long been partners in advancing technology and education. Most recently, Joint Study interns have worked on research projects dealing with emerging technologies such as cloud computing, blockchain, machine learning, and cognitive computing, which have applications in both the business and academic worlds.

Liam Haggerty '24, an Information and Technology Systems major who maintains the technological infrastructure in the Enterprise Computing Research Lab, said that volunteering opportunities like this one help complement his overall experience in the program.

Image of four of the Marist/IBM interns who participated in the project. From left to right: Ian Marsh ’24, Kyle Courounis ’25, Lillian McPadden ’25, and Evan Spillane ’25
Four of the Marist/IBM interns who participated in the project. From left to right: Ian Marsh '24, Kyle Courounis '25, Lillian McPadden '25, and Evan Spillane '25. Photo courtesy of Christy Schroeder, IBM.

“The Marist/IBM Joint Study program is a very tight-knit community,” said Liam. “Current students and alumni of the program are all very friendly with each other, so volunteering with graduates of the program felt very rewarding.”

The project tested the students’ creativity, too.

“There were some crafts that had specific directions, and some that you had a bit more freedom with,” said Lillian. “My favorite thing that I made I think would have to be the friendship bracelet!”

“My favorite was probably the origami dog,” said Liam, whose experience planted the seed for future service efforts in his life. “Knowing that I made a difference really resonated, and I plan on doing more volunteering even after I graduate, as I feel like it is something everyone should strive to do.”


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