Woodruff Family Turns to Volunteering After Iraq Injuries

Sept. 18, 2006 — -- With the new school year under way, it's often hard for families to get together for quality time.

Lee Woodruff, Family Fun magazine contributing editor, says volunteering is a good way to do that.

Woodruff said that her family actually began its volunteer work after her husband, ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff, was hit by a roadside bomb in Iraq and suffered severe injuries.

"We started doing it because we felt like we had been so lucky," she said. "Things could have been so much worse."

Woodruff says the family helps the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund and the Fisher House Foundation, which provides housing for families of wounded soldiers.

She says that Bob is doing better every day.

"He's working on stories again, and things are looking better every day," she said.

Family Fun's Difference Makers Awards honor 30 families for their volunteer work with $50,000 worth of cash grants.

The program is made possible with help from ABC's parent company, Disney, and the Points of Light Foundation.

'Something Bigger Than Us'

Those being honored are doing community service in unique ways.

The Reifsneiders work with the Ivy Hill Therapeutic Equestrian Center, which serves mentally and physically challenged children and adults.

"People with autism, cerebral palsy, and any number of special needs learn to ride and work with horses," Woodruff said.

"Plus, older horses that may have outlived their usefulness in other ways have a humane alternative to going off for slaughter."

The Reifsneiders have a history of doing good.

Sandi and George Reifsneider are also foster parents to three kids: Chrissie, Amanda and Steven.

"The Reifsneiders say the riding school helps them build bonds with their foster kids, and makes them a tighter family unit," Woodruff said.

Another family honored with a Difference Makers Award is the Castle Zajacs, who make a party out of their volunteer work.

Colleen Castle Zajacs and her son, Aiden, throw birthday parties for kids at the Jubilee Center, which serves low-income families.

Castle Zajacs said it had taught Aiden that not everyone lives like their family does and it had taught him important lessons about sharing.

"Meanwhile, kids at the center, who were attention starved and sometimes hostile, are now doing creative crafts and games," Woodruff said.

While it may be hard to drag kids away from the TV or computer, they learn how good it feels to give to others once they start volunteering, Woodruff said.

To get your family interested in volunteering, you need to pick something of personal relevance.

"If you know someone who's suffered from breast cancer, for example, getting involved in that area might be more meaningful," Woodruff said.

She added that volunteering didn't take up as much time as people might think -- just two hours a month can make a huge difference.

Since Bob's injuries, Woodruff said the family had stopped having little fights.

"The volunteering has allowed us to pull something positive out of something negative," she said. "It's helped us band together and see that there really is something bigger than us."

More information on volunteering:

Family Fun magazine tips and resources on volunteering.

For more information and ideas on how to volunteer in your community, you can contact Points of Light or call 1-800-VOLUNTEER.