John McDonald and his wife Yvonne walk the hallways of Ridge Meadows Hospital every Thursday.
By their side is Angel, a four-year-old, black and white, maltipoo-shih tzu cross.
Angel is a therapy dog and sports a beige bandana around her neck announcing to those they meet she is a “Code K9”, along with her name written in red at the very bottom.
John and Yvonne have been volunteering at the hospital for nine years now in various capacities and say volunteering there can give people a whole new outlook on life.
“We had a dog that was good with people and that’s what got us started with volunteer work,” said John about their first therapy dog, Buttons, who has since passed away.
During the two hours that John and Yvonne walk Angel at the hospital, they visit between 50 to 100 individuals.
“The first thing a person does is smile as soon as they see a dog,” John noted.
“She has her favourite doctor, nurse, favourite cleaning staff, favourite patients,” he said about Angel.
“And she knows where all the cookie jars are,” chuckled John.
John and Yvonne usually stick to the same areas each week because Angel has her fans. Then they will visit individuals who have specifically requested a visit who are unable to leave their rooms.
And, sometimes Angel will even perform tricks like dancing, playing dead, rolling over and sneezing on command.
“We enjoy going around and doing it. The dog enjoys it and the people definitely enjoy it. We like to give as much back to the community as possible,” said John.
John also plays the role of Father Christmas and volunteers at the annual Ridge Meadows Hospital Foundation Gala.
Yvonne volunteers at the gift shop and helps out with special events as well.
She volunteers up to three shifts a week at the hospital in addition to scheduling the volunteers at the gift shop and, along with two others, buying the stock for the shop as well.
Then every six weeks she will go in on a Sunday and revamp the whole store.
Yvonne says the meets wonderful people at the shop and loves every minute of it.
“We’re currently bringing on 118 volunteers,” said Nancy Young, manager of volunteer resources at Ridge Meadows Hospital.
“That will bring the total number of volunteers to more than 500,” she said.
Young believes the success of the volunteer program is simply word of mouth in a very giving community, that in general, has a really big volunteerism rate.
There are many departments that require volunteers including the emergency room and X-ray department where volunteers would be required to direct patients to where they need to be and show them where the gowns are located, and mobility volunteers who encourage patients to walk independently.
Ridge Meadows Hospital does a volunteer intake every two months and tries to match volunteers to their interests.
Young says there is lots of flexibility with a minimum commitment of two hours per week.
Yvonne believes that seniors, in particular, could benefit greatly volunteering at the hospital.
“I think of a lot of seniors that are sitting at home depressed, I think if they were to get out and give a couple of hours a month they would have a whole new outlook on life,” she said.
”My husband and I have been married coming up to 52 years and nobody gets through 52 years without a helping hand somewhere along the line,” added Yvonne.
“We’ve had helping angels in the past so now we like to feel that we can help people now.”