An Internship's Bottomless Benefits

byMadison Owen ’14
An Internship’s Bottomless Benefits
Madison Owen ’14 of Novi, Mich., (center) interned with Mickey Guisewite ’82, founder of The Bottomless Toy Chest. Here, in her own words, Madison describes the experience, where she learned practical business skills—and the profound power of an idea.

Last summer, I was given the opportunity to intern with Mickey Guisewite ‘82, the founder and executive director of The Bottomless Toy Chest, a Michigan-based nonprofit that provides interactive toys, games, and crafts to pediatric cancer patients in Metro-Detroit hospitals. 

Mickey founded the organization after experiencing the powerful impact of a strong support system in the treatment process as her own son went through cancer treatment at the age of 12.  She created The Bottomless Toy Chest to be a part of that support system for families, by working to lift the spirits of young cancer patients.

I went into the summer excited to not only gain experience working in the nonprofit world, but to also work side-by-side with a Denison alumna who recognized a need and turned her vision into an inspiring reality.  I expected to build upon my fundraising, event management, and operations skills, as well as form meaningful connections with my fellow interns and the families we sought to help.

“What will be forever etched in my heart is the memory of the hugs I received from these children as they whispered ‘thank you’ in my ear before leaving the theater.”

While most of my internship consisted of coordinating fundraisers, collecting donations, and contributing to the daily operations of a nonprofit, my experience culminated with the planning of a special patient event—a Disney Planes movie experience.

The guests received red carpet treatment as they enjoyed a private viewing of the new Disney movie, followed by a pizza party, face-painting, crafts, and other surprises.  The event provided an escape from the daily pinching, poking, and prodding these children experience every day during treatment.

During the planning process, it was easy to get wrapped up in the details and minutiae associated with putting on an event.  While we never lost sight of our ultimate goal of providing deserving children with an unforgettable day, having no previous interaction with the patients made it difficult to imagine how the kids would react. But, in the end, it was a success.

Looking back, it only seems fitting that my internship would culminate in a way that put into perspective the many hours of work for different events, fundraisers, and daily operations throughout the summer.  The patient outing reinforced the importance of BTC’s mission for me.  Providing these children and families with an opportunity to feel uplifted and positive, if only for a few hours, is what BTC aims to do, and I couldn’t be more proud to have been a part of that.

While I undoubtedly will remember the relationships formed, experience gained, and lessons learned from this internship for years to come, what will be forever etched in my heart is the memory of the hugs I received from these children as they whispered “thank you” in my ear before leaving the theater.

These children touched my heart and left me reflective of my own experiences and goals in life.  Ultimately, my internship experience taught me as much about my own ambitions and future career goals as it did about the power of an idea, and about Mickey Guisewite, a passionate woman who decided to make her vision a reality.

October 18, 2013