Volunteer Profile Melissa Bissen

March 27, 2023

Johns Hopkins Children’s Center board member wants others to find joy in volunteering and giving back

Melissa Bissen is a member and former co-chair of the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center Corporate Advisory Board (CAB). She is a certified public accountant who has provided professional accounting services to Baltimore area businesses for 27 years. A passionate and dedicated Hopkins volunteer for more than 10 years, Bissen has done everything from donating toys during the holidays and organizing fundraising events to answering phones at Radiothon. She hopes to inspire others to help this noble cause. “I can think of no better place to volunteer my time,” she shares. Learn more about her experience below.

Wearing superhero capes and masks, eight Johns Hopkins Children’s Center Radiothon volunteers smile as they stand and hold Instagram and Radiothon cutout frames.
Friends and family join Melissa Bissen (pictured left in the Instagram frame) for some fun while volunteering at the annual Children’s Center Radiothon.

Why do you volunteer for the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center?

I first attended Children’s Center fundraising events and CAB meetings with Bert Emerson, an avid volunteer and former colleague at Euler Hermes, a longtime Radiothon sponsor. I fell in love with the families and staff at the center so when Bert retired, I took over his seat on the CAB and as chairperson for the Euler Hermes events. I served as the Children’s Center CAB co-chair from 2015 to 2018 and have been an active board member since 2013.

I love helping create fun events that raise much-needed funds for the hospital. This can be as easy as encouraging employees to participate in events or to make ongoing payroll donations to the hospital. For example, during the holidays we encourage colleagues to give each other toys to donate instead of gifts. No one needs more candles, chocolate, or wine from co-workers — shopping for toys is way more fun! And giving these toys to kids who find themselves hospitalized over the holidays is even better. For each of the past five years, we have raised more than $5,000 worth of toys and cash for the Child Life Services Department at the hospital, which allows the patients to play and just be kids during their stay.

What do you enjoy most about the experience?

I love getting to know the patients and their families and hearing their heartfelt stories about how their family was and often continues to be loved, treated, and cared for by the hospital and its amazing staff. Many of these families have faced unimaginable challenges. They continue to have hope despite their lives having completely shifted in the blink of an eye when their children were diagnosed or injured. They are such an inspiration to me and my family, and I feel so blessed to be able to help them through their trials in any small way that I can. When their children’s lives are on the line, nothing seems small.

Surrounded by colorful toys and board games, Johns Hopkins Children’s Center volunteer Melissa Bissen smiles and stands with five other women.
Melissa Bissen (third from left) is joined by work colleagues to collect toys, games, and funds for Johns Hopkins’ young patients.

Why should others consider volunteering for Johns Hopkins?

You can’t imagine the joy that you will experience seeing these brave kids. They will inspire you to be a better person and to be thankful for what you have — your health especially. You will be ready to do whatever it takes to make them well again, to see them laugh again. A family never knows when it may need the world-class care and cutting-edge treatments and surgeries provided by the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, but we can each do our part to ensure that it is equipped to treat any patient with such a need. That next patient could be our neighbor or our own child or grandchild — and certainly, it will be a child who is the center of someone’s universe.

We are so truly fortunate to have this incredible hospital, filled with the world’s leading researchers, physicians, caregivers, and surgeons, right here in our backyard, ready to treat our friends and family. I can think of no better place to volunteer my time.

What do you wish other people knew about the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center?

I wish people better understood the almost immeasurable number of things that aren’t covered by insurance and that hospitals need to function and provide the best outcomes for their patients. Insurance typically covers the procedure, surgery, and medication, but not all the other things that are necessary for the patient to achieve the best outcomes.

For example, compression shirts for burn victims increase the likelihood of successful skin grafts by upwards of 70% and reduce the scarring. Sadly, many burn victims cannot afford these compression shirts. When these items aren’t covered by insurance, fundraising dollars become so essential and impactful. Every single dollar helps a child.

I also wish other people understood how the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center treats the whole family, not just the patient. They understand that when a child comes to them for critical care, the lives of their entire family have often just pivoted in a terrifying and unexpected way. For patients treated at Hopkins, their family becomes part of the Hopkins family, and once in the Hopkins family, always in the Hopkins family. In trying to raise money for the Children’s Center, we often work alongside families whose children have fought unimaginable battles, have recovered, and are now giving back and paying it forward for the next patient and family.

When you volunteer, you think you will be helping the kids, but really, they will be helping you — to experience true joy!

Get Involved

Interested in being a part of Johns Hopkins’ volunteer community?

Topics: Friends of Johns Hopkins Medicine, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Promote and Protect Health, Strengthening Partnerships