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Volunteer cares for NICU babies at ACH when families can't

Karen Huber volunteers in the neonatal intensive care unit at Arkansas Children's Hospital caring for babies when their families can not be there.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — For Karen Huber, there's nothing she enjoys more than wrapping her arms around the premature babies here at Arkansas Children's Hospital. 

"Sometimes I will hold the same baby for weeks or months in a row," Huber said. "I almost feel like I know them."

In the NICU, babies need all the love they can get. So Huber takes pride in caring for them when their families are away. 

"If one's unhappy or crying, I kind of take it as a personal challenge that I'm going to try to get them to calm down and get them happy," Huber said.

it's a simple yet powerful service that gives parents peace of mind.

Executive director for volunteer engagement, Erica Phillips said Huber is a big part of their cuddle program, along with fundraising efforts and helping out at the gift shop.

"It really helps with their health outcome certainly for families that can't be here the entire time that their child is here," Phillips said.

But it's her infectious smile and interaction with patients and customers that stands out most. 

"She just has that way to just connect with you in a way that you feel like you've known her forever," Phillips said. 

Huber has spent the last 10 years volunteering and advocating for ACH. Still, Phillips said she's always asking to do more and even trains other volunteers. 

"She really cares her heart is invested in the mission of Arkansas Children's," Huber said.

Huber said she finds so much joy in all of her volunteer work, whether it's here at ACH or the UAMS Cancer Institute, among many others. 

"It always helps me I mean coming here rocking babies helping someone in the gift shop, being at the cancer institute, going home," Huber said. "I'm like, 'I sure feel good, my heart is just full.'"

She hopes to inspire others to do more and also remind them why it's so important. 

"Volunteering doesn't pay here, but it pays here," Huber said pointing to her heart.