Meet Maddy. “I save my weekly trip to volunteer at Mount St. Mary Hospital for when I’m stressed at school and I need a treat,” says University of Victoria student Maddy. Even her beautiful golden lab Marley excitedly jumps up when the scarf he wears on volunteer duty comes out. Marley knows it is time to visit with some of the 200 residents who call this complex care facility located in downtown Victoria their home.
When she was searching for a volunteer opportunity, Maddy’s mom reminded her of the times they volunteered with their dog when she was a young girl. It was a great memory, so she decided to do it again. After receiving their training at St. John’s Ambulance, Maddy and Marley shadowed another Mount St. Mary Hospital’s pet therapy volunteer. Maddy found the Hospital to be a welcoming, encouraging, and positive place to visit. They were hooked and have dedicated a few hours a week for more than two years.
Maddy still can’t believe how much joy each visit brings her. She can spend hours sharing the special moments she has with some of our community’s most frail, elderly and vulnerable. On a typical day, they move through the resident areas visiting along the way. They also poke their heads into the single resident rooms to see who is up for a visit. Like those out in the common areas, the residents’ faces light up when they see Marley. Some are grateful to have just a few minutes stroking Marley’s soft fur while other residents appreciate more time to connect with an animal who knows only love. Marley listens quietly and with no judgement as they tell him about their joys and losses. He comes to them on their level – resting his chin on the edge of their wheelchair or bed or carefully cuddling up next to those who want him even closer.
One of Maddy’s favourite experiences with Marley was when a woman was sitting with her mom who has dementia. The woman was encouraging her to eat and she was visibly frustrated and also very sad that she couldn’t connect with her mom. As soon as Marley entered the room, the mom became engaged. After she spent a few minutes petting his head, she started talking—she wanted to know if her daughter remembered their family dog! It was a beautiful moment to cherish. Every week, Marley bridges a connection between this resident and Maddy who loves listening to her stories.
When Maddy first came to Mount St. Mary Hospital, she didn’t realize all of the volunteer opportunities available at the Hospital—from working in the gift shop to bringing residents to activities to supporting them during art group or music therapy. Because of her volunteering, Maddy is also learning how it can impact her future. Interested in physiotherapy as a career, Maddy also volunteers to help residents during their individual and group exercises. The Occupational Therapists are keen to share their knowledge and are great connections as she continues with this field of study at UVic.
Truly committed to her volunteer work at Mount St. Mary Hospital, Maddy shares her passion for volunteering with friends and family. She encourages them to find a volunteer opportunity that allows them to give back to their community while bringing joy to their own heart.
Mount St. Mary Hospital is truly fortunate to have many volunteers like Maddy and Marley who give many hours of their precious time to our residents. We are incredibly grateful for their generosity, kindness and compassion which bring comfort and quality of life to our residents.