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.

Whether you are someone living with cancer or Parkinson’s, 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.

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

Volunteer Handbook

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 their event.
  • Just for kids: We are happy to include our youngest volunteers in Purple Community events. Activities will vary depending on age and ability and 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!

Go-Go Volunteer

A go-go volunteer could be someone who:

  • Looking to help Purple Community with deliveries to events, set-up at events, run errands and can respond with short notice. We ask you to allot up to 60-90 minutes of potential driving time per shift.
  • This position is not consistent; volunteers will be contacted intermittently by a staff member with needs as they arise.

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 may 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 and responsibilities with Purple Community, and has progressed beyond a Pop Up volunteer.
  • Is passionate about the mission of Van Andel Institute.

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

  • Booth Coordinator: Attend events with Purple Community staff or cabinet members. Responsibilities may include managing the information table, taking donations, helping customers with merchandise sales and handling cash/credit card forms
  • Social Media Support: 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 PC Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts.

*Event captains are required to attend a formal 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. Event captains will also be asked to submit to a background check after orientation.


An ambassador is someone who:

  • Is fully engaged in the work of Van Andel Institute and Purple Community.
  • Wants to assist the Purple Community staff and cabinet with more comprehensive and detailed projects.
  • Has the availability to dedicate more time to serving Purple Community’s mission than a Go-Go or Event Captain volunteer could.

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

If you’re a registered volunteer, email purplecommunity@vai.org with the event name as the subject to sign up. If you’re not an official registered Purple Community volunteer, click the button below to register!                                                                                      

Volunteer Registration

Upcoming Opportunities

Oct. '17

Nov. '17

Dec. '17

Jan. '18

Feb. '18

March '18

April '18

May '18

June '18

July '18

Aug. '18

Sept. '18

Saturday, October 7 – Bee Brave 5K (volunteers TBD)

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

Friday, October 13 – South Christian Football Game (All shifts covered)

Saturday, October 14 – West Michigan Woman’s Wine and Wig (All shifts covered)

Friday, October 20 – Tri County Football Game  (2 Pop Up volunteers, 1 Event Captain)

Saturday, October 21 – TC Cares & Purple Community 5K Walk/Run (volunteers TBD)

Tuesday, November 7 – Leadership Lunch & Learn (4 Event Captain/Ambassador volunteers) 

Thursday, November 30 – Climbing to Conquer Cancer (volunteers TBD) 

Thursday, December 7 – Pinewood Middle School Basketball (2-3 Pop Up volunteers) 

No opportunities are available at this time.

No opportunities are available at this time.

Friday, March 2 – Grand Rapids Griffins Purple Community Game (1 Ambassador, 3 Event Captains, 4 Pop Up volunteers)

No opportunities are available at this time.

No opportunities are available at this time.

No opportunities are available at this time.

No opportunities are available at this time.

No opportunities are available at this time.

No opportunities are available at this time.


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.

Congratulations to our Purple Community Angel of the Quarter – Brooke Galloway!

Brooke Galloway is one of our youngest and most spirited volunteers. Though Brooke will be moving away from her Otsego community as she enters her freshman year at Central Michigan University, she has left her mark on her hometown, as well as Purple Community. With her role as president of the Otsego student council, we had the honor of working with Brooke in the fall of 2016 for Otsego’s district wide bi-annual Purple Week, bringing in over $23,448.97 for the Institute this past year.

Brooke has been an excellent aid to our Cabinet Volunteer Chair, Sally, for several weeks this summer as the two organized and managed ALL Purple Community inventory internally at VAI. We are so appreciative of the hours dedicated by this amazing gal to keep our purple machine organized- we could not do it without your help.

We wish you the best of luck at CMU Brooke! Read more about Brooke by clicking here

Past Purple Community Angels

Q1 2017 – Sally Schaafsma

Q2 2017 – Alison Sheltrown

Q3 2017 – Daryl and Mary Mick

Volunteer Feedback Form

We want to hear from you! How was your volunteer experience? Let us know what you liked and disliked. Please, share any suggestions you have for making the volunteer experience better in the future. Your feedback is anonymous.