``Ouchie,'' chirps Randall.
And with that ouchie, we move north and east to St. Christopher's Hospital for Children and volunteer Sharyse Weatherbee, 15, as she paints with Ahkeem Shaw, a 3-year-old hemophiliac from Marshall Street in South Philadelphia.
He likes purple and is swirling the color on computer paper that's become a canvas. ``Ahkeem, you're painting a pretty picture. What's that color? Do you want to use some of that color?''
He has been poked and prodded and has a bandage on his hand and wrist. But for these moments, he is smiling and engrossed, not a sick boy at all, just one intent on getting his picture just so.
Randall Oxley and Ahkeem Shaw each had a day made better this summer because of teenagers who volunteered.
Answering questions about porcupines, pitching softball, serving food, reading to preschoolers, delivering office mail, packing food, sorting clothes, sweeping streets, changing diapers, coaching youngsters, yes, young volunteers are busy from Haddonfield to Haddington.
Since the April volunteer summit, some organizations have seen an increase in teenagers seeking volunteer opportunities. Others have not.
``We've had more requests for volunteering this summer, and I think it's directly related to the summit,'' says Tess Boyle, who directs volunteer services at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Lissa Hilsee, director of Philadelphia Cares, a nonprofit organization that matches volunteers with agencies that need them, has seen ``no surge in youth volunteers, but there has been a surge in corporate commitment and involvement in volunteering since the summit.''
She adds that events like Martin Luther King Day, or school programs that require community service, usually lead to more young people wanting to help.
Neither of those were factors for zoo volunteer Cara Dzubow, 14, from Northampton Township in Bucks County.
``I've always liked animals, and I've gone to programs here,'' she says, explaining why she works two days a week, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the zoo.
Dzubow cleans, feeds and plays with animals. She also sweeps, mucks, wipes and picks up. On this day, she's in a small enclosure with two zoo employees and a porcupine. A dozen or so visitors are watching the animal. No one tries to pet it.
``The question most people ask is can they shoot their quills,'' she says. ``No. Porcupines are shy. They don't like confrontations.''
Porcupines and other animals quilled or furred are not part of Leon Morton's volunteer job at St. Christopher's. Morton, 15, from Olney, is in shipping and receiving.
``Nothing to do in the summer around my way and this is a good job experience,'' says Morton, whose father and mother both work in the hospital. ``They're starting you off here. Apply for a job in shipping and you have the experience.''
Morton and Michael Blount, 16, a volunteer from North Philadelphia, make six to 10 trips a day with a wheeled cart throughout the building at Front and Erie. Both boys work 9 to 3:30 p.m.
What did they just deliver to the outpatient pharmacy office?
``We don't know what's in the boxes,'' says Blount.
Any downside to the job, fellas?
``Just that you don't get paid,'' say both delivery-teens with smiles.
That's no negative for Sharyse Weatherbee. ``I work here five days and then baby-sit on the weekends. I love kids.''
The West Catholic student feeds, changes diapers, does arts and crafts, keeps bed-bound patients company, and even plays Nintendo with children. After painting with Ahkeem, she walks into 2 1/2-year-old Alexis Waldron's room.
The little girl from Stroudsburg has brain cancer and is halfway through 18 months of outpatient treatment. She wears a diaper and a little yellow shirt with SCHC on it. She has no hair. The outline of a shunt shows through her scalp. Her smile lights the room as she plays with the rattles and an activity board Weatherbee brought. Alexis' mother, Melissa, watches her daughter play. She has a few minutes off.
``Spin it, spin it, Alexis. Who's looking at her pretty face in the mirror?''
The volunteer keeps talking as the little girl plays with the levers, ball and mirrors on the activity board. After Alexis touches everything with her hands or mouth, she uses her feet. Weatherbee keeps playing with her, voice soothing and light.
Back at the zoo, Emily Yates from Lansdowne is sweeping a path. No cuddly animals are in sight.
``I've been here about three weeks and it's fun,'' says the 15-year-old volunteer. ``I want to be a vet in Africa when I grow up and I'm learning a lot of stuff. Sure, I'm doing a lot of cleaning and raking, but it's funner when your parents didn't tell you to do it.''
Ariel Baker, 15, from Southwest Philadelphia, is sitting behind a table covered with pelts, horns and skulls, animal parts for people to touch and ask about.
``What's this?'' asks a boy who looks to be an old 8.
``It's a deer skull,'' says Baker.
There are more questions, more answers - python eggs, baboon pelt. She has her own written list of the table items. It's her second week at the zoo, but her first behind the table. ``I always wanted to work around animals. I'd have been bored at home.''
Most of the teen volunteers at the zoo are girls, but Robel Mekonen doesn't mind being one of few boys.
More importantly, ``I was scared of cockroaches,'' says the University City resident. ``I thought they were slimy, but now I like bugs a lot. I like taking care of the cow, Ferdinand. I get to teach him, discipline him. He's young, so it's like taking care of a child.''
As 4-year-old Randall Oxley watches, Mekonen pulls up a small log inside the giant hissing cockroach tank and shows him the 30 or 40 baby cockroaches underneath.
Randall's mother makes a face. ``Yucky, aren't they,'' she says.
He looks at her as if she's speaking a foreign language - motherese.
``No, they're cool,'' he says.
Mekonen can only smile.
Places you can go to volunteer
Camp is over. No one's around. Videos are getting boring, and your parents want you out of the house. You tried to get a job, but no one wants to hire anyone without experience. It's hot and you need something to do.
People do need you. You'll feel good about it. And helping people will keep you busy.
Start simple. Is there an elderly resident on your block who needs a hand? Maybe mowing a lawn, doing an errand, or just keeping them company. Is someone just out of the hospital who could use some help? Or a new family that moved in and needs baby-sitting?
Visit a local church or synagogue. Can they use help in the building or in a summer program? Maybe there's office work or phones to answer at the local library or arts center. Is there a senior citizen facility nearby that might need you? Also, consider the nearest hospital, homeless shelter or recreational facility.
If none of those works out, here are other options:
The United Way of Southeastern Pa. offers one-stop shopping for volunteers. City residents can call 215-665-2474. You'll be sent a form asking your interests and availability. Send it back and the United Way will match you with several potential organizations needing your help. Process takes about 10 days.
In Montgomery, Delaware or Chester Counties, call the United Way at 610-558-5639. In Lower Bucks County, call 215-949-1660, ext. 24; in Central Bucks, it's 215-348-4810, ext. 24.
In New Jersey, call 609-963-2720 for the United Way in Camden County, 609-267-4500 in Burlington County, and 609-845-4303 in Gloucester County.
Burlington County and Gloucester County have their own volunteer centers that match nonprofit agencies and volunteers. Call 609-702-8088 in Burlington County and 609-384-8131 in Gloucester County.
Philadelphia Cares, 215-545-5335, is another one-stop destination that matches volunteers with organizations, including food banks, the Ronald McDonald House and AIDS groups. A monthly calendar lists groups with events that need volunteers. The calendar notes which are ``kid friendly.''
Project Home provides residences, training and hope for the homeless, and day camps for their children. Preteens can help serve lunches and spend time with residents. Older youngsters, usually 15 to 19, volunteer in the camps. Call 215-382-1622, ext. 210.
The Recreation Department operates 64 day camps throughout Philadelphia, running from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Most volunteers are 14 to 17 years old. Call Elvira Stewart, day camp director, at 215-685-2721.
Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth, 215-563-5848, helps organize play streets, games and lunch programs. Call Rosemary Matthews.
Philabundance provides food to places like soup kitchens. More food is always welcome. If you and your family want to give away some of your garden bounty, call them at 215-844-3663.
The Philadelphia Zoo usually places youthful volunteers at the Children's Zoo. You need to be at least 14 years old. Call 215-243-5200.
Libraries. If the local library cannot use you, perhaps another one can. Call the volunteer office at 215-686-5340. Summer programs use youngsters to do everything from read to children to help patrons with computers.
Children's hospitals. Two local institutions specialize in helping ill children. Tess Boyle, 215-590-1093, heads the volunteer office at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. They have enough volunteers for the summer, but will need more once school starts and again next summer. The hospital needs teens 16 and over to do patient-related work, and volunteers 15 and older to do clerical work. At St. Christopher's Hospital for Children, Barbara Liccio heads volunteer services at 215-427-5398. They need volunteers 15 and over now for patient care or clerical work.
The Police Athletic League needs teens 15 and over to serve as baseball coaches now and to work as tutors and in other athletic capacities when school begins. Call 215-291-9000, ext. 110. Ask for Rob Wilman.