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Volunteering to Love, Loving to Volunteer

As a freshman at The University of Pittsburgh, Kate Werley knew she wanted to make a commitment to volunteering. “I knew that I wanted to get involved in the community, so I went to the Volunteer Fair [at The University of Pittsburgh],” Kate explained. “I’ve always enjoyed volunteering, but some past experiences were one-day events.  I really wanted to make more of a long-term commitment and form relationships with the people I would meet.” That’s exactly what she did.

After learning more about the unique program, Kate met with Vernie Mowad, a former volunteer coordinator, and MaryJo Alimena Caruso, CareBreak coordinator, to register for training and complete the forms necessary to become a CareBreak volunteer. After completing the training, she was more eager to start volunteering.

“MaryJo and Vernie really put a lot of time into matching volunteers with families to make sure they ‘click’. When I met the Rosas, I knew we would be a perfect match,” Kate recalled.  Since that initial meeting Kate has been visiting Charlie and Laura Rosa and their children— twins Teddy and Alex, Emily and Isabella. Teddy was diagnosed with autism when he was only a few years old.

“Not only have I fallen in love with the kids, but Charlie and Laura have been great friends to me. I love spending time with them,” Werley added. “As a student who is five hours from my own family, I was really worried about being homesick.  But the Rosas welcomed me with open arms. The whole experience has been amazing.”

The Rosas, both graduate students at The University of Pittsburgh, concur. “Charlie and I feel that we are immensely blessed and fortunate to have Kate as a Carebreak volunteer.  She is an incredibly intelligent, kind, patient and giving young woman with a wonderful sense of humor and magical way with kids. We consider her a member of the family,” Laura noted.

“Last February, we were expecting our fourth child. I think Kate was more excited than we were!” Laura continued. “She agreed to be ‘on-call’ so that we could have her stay with the kids when it was time to go to the hospital. The day after Isabella was born, Kate came to the hospital with a baby gift and a giant chocolate bar for me, since I had limited my sugar intake during the pregnancy.”

As a CareBreak volunteer, Kate helps the Rosas by giving Charlie and Laura time to take a break from the rigors of caring for a child with special needs. They are then able to do housework, study, eat a quiet meal or just spend quality time with each other.

“I love spending time with the kids,” Kate said. “When I get to the house, they run downstairs to see me. Charlie and Laura get some time for themselves and I get to spend the evening playing Legos or telling ghost stories.  We have a great time.”

CareBreak currently serves the families of thirty-four children throughout Allegheny and the surrounding counties. Many more families are waiting for a CareBreak volunteer to make a difference in their lives. If you would like to become a CareBreak volunteer, please contact Melissa Monyak at 412-749-2862 or  No prior experience with children with special needs is required.

“There’s no question. You have to do this,” Kate suggested. “You really never know what kind of close bonds you can form through this program. For me, it’s probably the most gratifying thing I have ever done.”

For more information about CareBreak and other programs of the Watson Institute, please visit

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