Help us to spread awareness of Van Andel Institute (VAI) 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:

  • May never have volunteered with Purple Community before and is looking to learn more.
  • 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!

A Pop Up volunteer would serve in the following ways:

  • Event support: 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 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!

Pop Up volunteers are not required to attend a formal training session. Volunteers will receive a “Welcome to Volunteering” email with a link to the Volunteer Handbook. It is recommended that volunteers review the handbook and talking points prior to their first time volunteering. Volunteers will receive detailed instruction upon arrival of first shift.

Go-Go Volunteer

Purple Community is looking for Go-Go Volunteers who are dependable drivers 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.

A go-go volunteer is someone who:

  • Is 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 time may include material pick up, drop off and driving time).
  • Volunteers should be comfortable and physically capable of doing occasional heavy lifting (50 lbs or less), though not always a requirement of this role.
  • Is ready to jump in at a moment’s notice. This position is not consistent; volunteers will be contacted intermittently by a staff member with needs as they arise.
  • Must have their 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.
  • Should be comfortable handling transactions and providing customer service at events.
  • Is passionate about the mission of Van Andel Institute.

An Event Captain would serve in the following ways:

  • Booth Coordinator: Attend events with Purple Community staff, ambassadors or cabinet members. Responsibilities may include managing the information table, taking donations, helping donors 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.


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 for the program’s growth. .
  • 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!

An Ambassador could serve in the following ways:

  • 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 Allyson.Huttenga@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

Dec. '17

Jan. '18

Feb. '18

March '18

April '18

May '18

June '18

July '18

Aug. '18

Sept. '18

Oct. '18

Nov. '18

Thursday, December 7 – Pinewood Middle School Basketball (volunteer spots full) 

Friday, December 8 – Country Kicks Cancer – Jon Pardi (volunteer spots full)

Wednesday, December 13 – TC West Hockey Fights Cancer (2-3 Pop Up volunteers)

Saturday, December 16 – CKC Series – A B93 Christmas with Granger Smith (2 Event Captains)

Thursday, December 21 – Country Kicks Cancer – Drew Baldridge (1 Ambassador)

Saturday, January 27 – GVSU Hockey Fights Cancer (2 Pop Up volunteers)

Wednesday, January 31 – GVSU Volunteer Fair

February 10 & 11 – Southside Ice Arena Hockey Fights Cancer Weekend (10 Pop Up volunteers)

Saturday, February 10 – Aquinas College HFC Game (See Southside HFC Event)

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

Saturday, April 28 – Consumers Credit Union Purple Community 5K (50 + volunteers, details coming soon)

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.

September 13, 2018 – Pure Barre on the Blue Bridge (4 Pop Up volunteers)

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.

Kathy Weglicki Purple CommunityCongratulations to our Purple Community Angel of the Quarter – Kathy Weglicki!

It would be difficult for someone to top the spunky spiritedness of Ms. Kathy Weglicki! Kathy has been a reliable volunteer season after season for Purple Community since she started in 2016. She brings tremendous energy to every event she attends and serves enthusiastically on both the Consumers Credit Union Purple Community 5K Planning Committee and as part of the Events Subcommittee for our Purple Community Cabinet.

As if that wasn’t enough, Kathy is also the founder of FEARLESS Flamingos, a cancer awareness group with over 200 passionate members who participate in various 5K races while striving to raise awareness and funds to combat cancer.

Kathy’s favorite aspect of volunteering with Purple Community is the people. “I have met so many wonderful volunteers and friends at VAI/PC that make volunteering something that I look forward to – each and every event.  Seeing people working for others, so selflessly, is amazing!”

We look forward to seeing YOU at each and every event you volunteer for Kathy. Thanks for your continued support of Van Andel Institute and Purple Community! We couldn’t do what we do without your efforts!

Past Purple Community Angels

Q1 2017 – Sally Schaafsma

Q2 2017 – Alison Sheltrown

Q3 2017 – Daryl and Mary Mick

Q4 2017 – Brooke Galloway

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.