"I had a great childhood, with no serious illness, so volunteering really made me aware of some of the chronic illness and life-threatening diseases that some of these children have, causing them to spend their days in a hospital room," Fitzwater said.
"I can't imagine them not being able to go out and just be a kid, so I want to help change their lives."
And with the $10,000 she recently won in Amway's "Who Cares" Challenge, she plans to expand those activities and purchase more materials for the program.
Amway, a direct-selling company, held its youth leadership contest to honor 10 young people who have shown leadership in community service.
Fitzwater submitted her story and community service to the online contest, and the public was able to vote on the top 100. From there, Amway chose 10 contestants to receive a $10,000 prize.
Fitzwater hopes to use $2,000 to provide a scholarship fund for program volunteers, $1,000 for print materials (both volunteer and promotional resources), $2,000 to purchase items for hospital visits (costumes, craft supplies, books, special-needs items) and $5,000 for a savings account that will be used later to restock supplies, as seed money for future fundraising projects and to assist other Pediatric Entertainment Program chapters across the world.
Fitzwater's program has locations in Charleston, Morgantown, Houston, Beijing and Shanghai, China.
While interning at The Johns Hopkins University, she met friends from China and Texas who wanted to take her concept home with them. Fitzwater created the materials and submitted the literature to them to begin those locations.
Each hospital's needs vary, but each program coincides with a hospital and uses volunteers to help kids forget their illnesses and just be kids by engaging them in specially designed games and activities for all types of mobility.
Fitzwater said all the funding so far has been out of her own pocket.
"I have a job, so some of my money went to this," she said. "And the hospitals we've dealt with have some resources. But other than that, it's just been blood, sweat and tears. This money will really help."
To learn more, visit www.pepintl.org.