Help us to spread awareness of Van Andel Institute through Purple Community events!

We’re looking for motivated individuals to help us educate the community on what Purple Community is all about, be a listening ear to those who’d like to share their cancer or Parkinson’s stories, and be energized about joining the fight against cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.

We have volunteer opportunities from pop-up volunteers to our ambassadors – there is an important role for everyone!

Pop Up Volunteer

A pop up volunteer is someone who:

  • Has never volunteered with Purple Community before and is looking to learn more, and is looking for opportunities to support us as they pop up!
  • Is passionate about the mission of Van Andel Institute.
  • May be a student (K-12 or college level) looking for service hours.
  • May be interested in supporting events and filling needs as they pop up, without making a long-term time commitment.

If any of these apply to you, welcome – you are in the right place!

Here are a few roles you could take on as a Purple Community pop up volunteer:

  • Event support volunteer: Providing helping hands where needed including, set up, tear down, clean up, and assist our event hosts for the duration of the event.
  • Just for kids: We are happy to include our youngest volunteers in Purple Community events! Activities will vary depending on age and ability but will be kid friendly. Children under 16 years of age must be accompanied by an adult.
  • Photographers/videographers: This individual would capture the fun activities taking place at the event and have the opportunity to run our photo booth. It’s a great role for those confident using a camera!

*An orientation with Purple Community is optional for Pop Up volunteers.

Go-Go Volunteer

A go-go volunteer could be someone who:

  • Is interested in volunteering every now and then.
  • Is willing to drive for a total of 30 – 90 minutes.
  • Is passionate about the mission of Van Andel Institute.

Purple Community is always on the GO and occasionally needs support retrieving and delivering items to and from our event hosts in the greater Grand Rapids Area.

We are looking for Go-Go Volunteers who are dependable drivers and are willing to travel from VAI to our business partners, schools and other organizations we partner with to assist with delivering Purple Community merchandise, event materials, t-shirts etc. There be instances of collecting materials from these locations post-event and delivering to VAI as well.

*Locations vary, must have own reliable transportation and a valid driver’s license upon orientation.

Event Captain

An event captain is someone who:

  • Is looking for multiple volunteer opportunities within Purple Community.
  • Is passionate about the mission of Van Andel Institute.
  • Is looking for more responsibility as a Purple Community volunteer.

If this describes you, these are some roles you could hold:

  • Booth Coordinator: This volunteer would be present at events with a Purple Community staff member or Cabinet member. Responsibilities may include managing the information table, taking donations, helping customers with merchandise sales, and handling cash/credit card forms.
  • Social Media Support: This volunteer would be responsible for capturing the essence of Purple Community at events for our social media pages! This may include snapping photos, live videos, and updating the Purple Community Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

*Event captains are required to attend a brief orientation with a Purple Community staff member. Orientation will vary based upon the role but will include a tour of our facilities, volunteer swag bag, and an information pack about VAI and Purple Community so you feel prepared and informed while at events.


An ambassador is someone who:

  • Is fully engaged in the work of Van Andel Institute and Purple Community.
  • Is passionate about the mission of Van Andel Institute.
  • Wants to contribute to future endeavors and growth with the Purple Community staff and Cabinet Volunteer Chair
  • Is a dedicated volunteer.

If you work your way up to an ambassador, we know you mean business!

Here are some roles you may hold as an ambassador:

  • Purple Community Liaison: These volunteers would be thoroughly trained and attend events with event captains and pop up volunteers. They may be the lead at an event representing Purple Community, or assist us in recruiting new event hosts.
  • Newsletter Editor: This volunteer would draft a monthly volunteer newsletter with current opportunities and events. The newsletter would then be sent to Purple Community staff for approval before being published.

Group Volunteering

We have several signature Purple Community events which require all hands on deck! These are great opportunities for larger school and corporate groups to volunteer together.

There are a variety of vital tasks that these larger groups can help support and can include: Set up, tear down, raffle ticket sales, running the photo booth and information table, manning a water station at our annual 5K and much more!

The Great Pumpkin Run and Hard Cider Run are examples of how Group Volunteer opportunities give back in a unique way. For each shift covered, Sour Fish events will donate $15.00 to cancer, Parkinson’s and neurodegenerative disease research!

Each event is different and their needs vary widely based on the type of event so flexibility and can-do attitudes are a must!

Previous groups have enjoyed volunteering at the following events:

  • Middle school to college level sporting events
  • Purple Community booths at Maranda Park Parties
  • Raffle sales at Griffins and Whitecaps games
  • Water station team and course marshals at the Purple Community 5K
  • Color Run Purple station volunteers
Upcoming Opportunities













Saturday, Jan. 28 – Bee Brave Chili Cook Off – All positions filled

Saturday, Feb. 11-Sunday Feb. 12 – Hockey Fights Cancer Weekend – All positions filled

Thursday, Feb. 16 – Gazelle Sports Charity Night – All positions filled

Friday, Feb. 17 – Grand Rapids Griffins Hockey Game – All positions filled

Thursday, March 9 – Bee Brave Beer and Wine Fest – All positions filled

Saturday, March 11 – St. Patrick’s Day Parade – All positions filled

Thursday, March 23 – Ventura Manufacturing Wellness Fair – All positions filled

Thursday, March 23 – The Sharpe Collection-Grand Opening of the Jaguar Room – All positions filled

Saturday, March 25 – Eagles for Eric – All positions filled

Saturday, March 25 – iHeart Media #CountryKicksCancer w/ Chase Bryant – All positions filled

Saturday, April 8 – Grand Rapids Film Festival-Gardening At Night (3 Pop Up volunteers)

Thursday, April 20 – iHeart Media #CountryKicksCancer w/ Hunter Hayes – All positions filled

Saturday, April 22 – Rockford vs. Grand Rapids Christian-Lax vs. Cancer (TBD)

Friday, April 28 – Purple Community 5K Packet Pick Up – All positions filled

Saturday, April 29 – Purple Community 5K and Fun Run

Saturday, May 6 – Bee Brave Golf Outing

Tuesday, May 9 – Purple Community Blood Drive at Van Andel Institute – All positions filled

Wednesday, May 10 – Fifth Third River Bank Run Junior Race (6 Pop Up volunteers)

Friday, May 12 – Duncan Lake Middle School Cancer Walk (2 Pop Up volunteers)

Friday, May 12 – Fifth Third River Bank Run Expo (Pop Up volunteers for multiple shifts. Contact Ashley.Owen@vai.org.)

Saturday, May 13 – River Bank Run (6 Pop Up volunteers)

Friday, May 19 – Country Kicks Cancer concert w/ Chase Rice – All positions filled

Thursday, June 1 – Country Kicks Cancer concert w/ Josh Abbott – All positions filled

Saturday, June 3 – Grand Rapid’s Ellington Miles for MaLinda (2 Pop Up volunteers)

Saturday, June 17-Sunday, June 18 – iHeart Media B.93 Birthday Bash (Pop Up volunteers for multiple shifts. Contact Ashley.Owen@vai.org.)

Thursday, June 22 – Maranda Park Party-Lamar Park (6 Pop Up volunteers)

Thursday, June 29 – Maranda Park Party-Smith Ryerson Park (6 Pop Up volunteers)

Thursday, July 13 – Maranda Park Party-East Kentwood High School (6 Pop Up volunteers)

Thursday, July 20 – Maranda Park Party-Kollen Park (6 Pop Up volunteers)

Saturday, August 5 – MINI on the Mack (2 Pop Up volunteers. Must be willing to travel and cover expenses.)

Wednesday, August 9 – Auto Body Xperts Open House, Holland (2 Pop Up volunteers)

Wednesday, August 23 – Auto Body Xperts Open House, Hudsonville (2 Pop Up volunteers)

Thursday, September 14 – Pure Barre on the Bridge (4 Pop Up volunteers)

Saturday, September 23 – Ada Christian Athletics Purple Day (TBD)

Saturday, October 7 – Bee Brave 5K

Sunday, October 8 – Bank of America Chicago Marathon (TBD)

Saturday, October 14 – West Michigan Woman’s Wine and Wig event (2 Pop Up volunteers)

No opportunities are available at this time.

No opportunities are available at this time.


Join Us Today!                                                                                           

Without the help of our volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish even a fraction of what we do today. 

Whether you are someone living with cancer or Parkinson’s, or perhaps have someone in your life that is, or just someone who cares about the mission of Van Andel Institute and what we are doing through Purple Community, we would be grateful for whatever time you have to offer.

Our entire organization, your community, and the next person affected by cancer, Parkinson’s, or another neurodegenerative disease thanks you in advance for your dedication of time in support of the work happening at Van Andel Institute.

Click the button below to submit your volunteer form and let us know which level you see yourself falling into. We can’t wait to hear from you! Check out our upcoming events here!


Purple Community Angel

We appreciate all of our volunteers who dedicate their time and talents to Purple Community. Each quarter our Purple Community Team will highlight a volunteer who has gone above and beyond their call of duty.

alison sheltrownThis Quarter’s Purple Community Angel is Alison Sheltrown!

Alison is one of our go-to Purple Community spokespeople, an extremely dependable volunteer and newly appointed Cabinet Vice Chair! She is dedicated to Purple Community’s mission and uses her voice to spread awareness of the work we do here in West Michigan, and in particular is a very strong advocate for the research Van Andel Institute does on Parkinson’s disease. We cannot thank you enough, Alison, for being such an inspiration and contributing so much of your time to Purple Community.




Past Purple Community Angels

Q1 2017 – Sally Schaafsma