Wonder Woman has the Lasso of Truth. Superman has a cape. Captain America has his shield. Doctor Who has his TARDIS. In short, superheroes need tools.

This Volunteer Appreciation Week, we celebrate the everyday heroism of our amazing, incredible – dare we say heroic?!? – Support Volunteers. They don’t have lassos or shields or Vibranium anything – but they do have phones.

And those phones have power. In the hands of a trained survivor or caregiver, some bits of metal and plastic become a superheroes’ weapon against despair. Their super power? HOPE! Each time they accept a new match, send a call or a text, they’re saving, not a city, but someone’s calm.

No matter what their tools, the throughline of every hero’s story is courage. Courage in the face of evil, darkness or difficult times.

Our volunteers share that courage with clients like Lucille** who wrote to “Jane is wonderful!! A perfect match for me. I was really reluctant to do this, I felt I was going ok and didn’t really need any support (stubborn). But when I  started talking to her it was as if I already knew her!! God bless her for what she has gone thru and be so willing to support me and listen…very humbling❤️  I hope to return the service to someone else, one day.”

Or Heloise** who thanked her volunteer directly. “She told me that I always lift her spirits and she feels “healing” after talking with me and that she thought I was put on this earth to help.”

One volunteer, now retired, reached out to connect when their cancer returned. “As I former volunteer, I know how the service works. Now, as a client, I was humbled by the compassion of those I spoke with, both staff and volunteer.”

This year, the theme for Volunteer Appreciation Week is empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It’s particularly fitting, for our volunteers, as they listen and mentor patients and caregivers across the country.

Cancer can bring out the best in our personal networks, as friends rally and family host fundraisers and bring dinner. But it can also be isolating, as friends and family wait to be asked for help or struggle to find the right words to say. (Looking for tips? Check out “What do I say? Keeping your foot out of your mouth when a loved one is facing cancer.”)

But in that isolation, nearly 500 CHN Support Volunteers grab their phones, marshal their courage and live out the definition of empathy, reducing anxiety, inspiring courage and bringing out the best of humanity. “Mark was able to outline what’s coming up for me and dampen my anxiety.”

“To say that we appreciate our volunteers is an understatement. Put bluntly, Cancer Hope Network wouldn’t exist without the hundreds of Support Volunteers who show up when life is dark. Each year, in thousands of phone calls, text message and emails, they’re demonstrating heroic empathy. Our volunteers aren’t flashy,” said CHN Director of Programs Samantha Schrager. “They aren’t looking for awards or recognition – in fact, many of them don’t even recognize the noble work their doing as anything out of the ordinary. But in that ordinariness is hope.”

Volunteer Appreciation Week comes around once a year – but each and every day, we are thankful for the superheroes who share their compassion, their strength and courage. And, you know, their tools.

Thank you.

**Names have been changed to protect privacy.