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Former St. Mary’s patient helps current patients

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Arif Sharon stands on the left in a white shirt supervising St. Mary’s children as they play with a therapy dog.

Arif Sharon spent the majority of his teenage years in St. Mary’s Hospital for Children, where he was treated for his learning disability. Now, at 20, he works for the hospital to help other kids.

“I was one of them, and it makes me feel good to be here,” Sharon said. “I want to work here full time.”

St. Mary’s Hospital for Children provides intensive rehabilitation, specialized care and education to children with special needs and life-limiting conditions.

Sharon is finishing up high school and he’s training to become a therapeutic activities assistant for the hospital. For now, he volunteers with supervising the kids and has been doing it since 2013.

“The best part of my job is meeting new kids,” Sharon said. “You get to see what their disability is and how you can help them.”

Sharon, who’s from Richmond Hills, also wants to go to college and do something in pediatrics that would allow him to help St. Mary’s kids even more. On a sunny winter day, Sharon played with a group of children in the hospital’s playground. A therapeutic dog chased a ball to the chorus of children’s laughter. A student of Thomas Edison High School, Sharon continues to struggle with many of the problems that the children have.

“He’s amazing,” said Jillian Quinn, the volunteer coordinator. “He understands the kids and he is always willing to help.”

While Quinn oversees many volunteers, she said that Sharon’s previous experience with being a patient of the facility allows him to help the children in ways that some other volunteers don’t naturally do.

“They see me as their role model,” Sharon said. “I have a pretty awesome job.”

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