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Lunch Buddy Relationship Inspires Woman to Pursue Nursing Career

LunchBuddy Kathy Boerger, left, talks with Olivia Knouff and son, Oakley, during a recent lunch.

Kathy Boerger’s three years as a volunteer lunch buddy for Olivia Knouff a decade ago has paid off more than they ever imagined.

Boerger, Human Resources director at  Upper Valley Medical Center, reconnected with Knouff after she graduated high school in 2010 and contacted her about her plans to attend nursing school.

She recently attended the nursing pinning ceremony at Edison State College, where Knouff publicly thanked Boerger for her support, encouragement and introduction to the world of nursing.

The two met in 2002 when Olivia Meadows was in fourth grade at Troy’s Hook Elementary School. As a lunch buddy through The Future Begins Today program in Troy, Boerger would meet  with Olivia once monthly for lunch and to talk.

The lunch pairing continued for three years, until Knouff headed off to junior high. The two lost contact while Olivia went through junior and senior high school.

She didn’t forget, though, about the conversations she’d had with Boerger, a nurse.

Their discussions about the profession helped Knouff decide to explore a nursing career.

With that decision, she wrote Boerger the letter telling her she was heading to the Edison nursing program as a result of their conversations, including discussions of helping others.

Boerger was taken by surprise, but thrilled.

“I never realized the conversations we had would impact her life,” she said. “It was extremely rewarding, probably at the top of my list. I was quite touched.”

That letter brought the mentor and student back together. The have met for lunch at least quarterly since as Olivia pursued her education, married Kyle Knouff and welcomed the couple’s first child, Oakley, late last year.

Knouff said she loves nursing and found special interest in working in medical/surgery and labor and delivery.

“I loved helping people. Kathy talked to me about how rewarding nursing was. I told my mom, ‘She tells me all these stories about the hospital and it sounds so cool there,’” Knouff said.

“The wonderful thing about nursing is you can do a variety of things,” said Boerger, who first worked at UVMC in adolescent behavioral health.

Boerger said she enjoyed the lunch buddy program, encouraging other UVMC employees to participate and continuing in the program today. Her current lunch buddy will be in sixth grade come fall at Troy’s Forest school.

She continues to participate in the program knowing the time with a child may instill more confidence in them, Boerger said. “I encourage them to do well in school, to believe in themselves and to try their hardest, particularly in the fields of math and science,” she said.

Before Oakley’s birth, Knouff, now a Piqua resident, was working as an aide in people’s homes and finishing school. She will take her nursing boards and then pursue her profession.

Once she gets settled in a job, Knouff said she’d like to contact the lunch buddies program coordinator about becoming a lunch buddy mentor. “I want to be able to help kids in the same way,” she said.