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WellSpan volunteers lift us with their hands and hearts

April 18, 2022

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WellSpan volunteers include (clockwise, from left) Ira Van Order with Obi and Austin; Spencer Prematta; and Gary Daugherty.

WellSpan volunteers include (clockwise, from left) Ira Van Order with Obi and Austin; Spencer Prematta; and Gary Daugherty.

WellSpan’s more than 4,000 volunteers include: 

  • Three huge dogs who are a healer, a diva, and your new best friend. 
  • A pre-med student who can talk superheroes with kids AND do crafts. 
  • A guy in his 80s who has worked almost his whole life, thinks he’s in his 40s, and likes to start his shift with a cheerful “Hello everybody!” 

Last year, WellSpan volunteers gave more than 53,000 hours of their time at hospitals, patient care sites and community events across South Central Pennsylvania. 

Volunteers help in a wide variety of ways, doing 250 different types of tasks that include cuddling babies, delivering flowers and mail, playing the piano in lobbies, helping at gift shops, leading yoga classes, making calls to blood donors, participating in art therapy with patients, serving in hospital kitchens, and offering directions and assistance to visitors, among many other jobs. Last year, volunteers provided 9,000 hours of clinical and non-clinical support at COVID-19 vaccination sites, as members of the COVID-19 Hope Squad. 

“We are so grateful for every minute volunteers give,” says Christi Brown, WellSpan senior director of volunteer engagement. “Volunteers volunteer because they want their service to have an impact on people. We can’t say enough about how they impact both our patients and our teams across the region.” 

The gentle giants 

Delfi, Austin, and Obi-Wan Van Order have been volunteers at WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital for about four years, certified through KPETS – Keystone Pet Enhanced Therapy Services. The three Leonberger breed dogs are overseen by their “mom and dad,” Ira and Mark Van Order. 

You can find Ira, 47, and one of the therapy dogs at Good Sam every other week. The pooches are among 54 therapy dogs – each with their own official WellSpan name badge – who can be found sharing cuddles and calm across the entire WellSpan system. 

Weighing between 120 (Delfi and Austin) and 165 pounds (Obi), the fluffy dogs are the show wherever they go. This is what they often hear from patients and team members: Is that a horse? Do they have a saddle? May I hug them? Can they give kisses? What soft fur! How much do they eat? How did you know I needed this visit? Don’t mind my tears, just let me hug them. 

If you meet them: Obi is a healer who looks into people’s eyes and seems to say, “How can I make you feel better?” Delfi is a diva who emits the vibe of “Look at me! Aren’t I beautiful? Pet me! It will make you feel ALL better.” Austin, Obi’s son, is still a puppy at 17 months, wondering, “Are you a new friend? Wanna play? Gimme a belly rub!” 

Recently, Obi fixed his soulful gaze on a woman who was feeling down due to being bed-ridden for several months. Her face lit up and she hugged his neck. “This was the bestest day ever,” she told him. “Thank you for the ray of sunshine you brought into my life.” 

Ira notes, “Each therapy visits makes my dogs happy, and I love seeing the smiles on the faces of people we visit.” 

The future pediatrician 

Spencer Prematta spends Monday afternoons at WellSpan Pediatric Rehabilitation in York, doing anything from cleaning toys to hanging out with kids as they undergo speech, physical, and occupational therapy. 

The 23-year-old pre-med senior at York College tries to make therapy fun for kids and easy for their therapists. 

“Kids are messy,” he says. “I help clean up the messes they make so they can keep getting therapy. I get to distract them while they are getting treatment. I talk to them about movies and things like that. There is a lot of superhero talk, which is always fun.” 

Spencer, who also volunteers with a middle school mentor program, would like to be a pediatrician. He says his WellSpan volunteer experience has given him a good taste of what it’s like to work with kids and an appreciation for the joy you get from contributing to someone else’s life. 

“There was this one kid who would come in and he would always crack jokes and crack me up,” he says. “It was fun working with him. One of the best parts was he introduced me to his mom as one of his new friends. That was heartwarming. He dragged me in the waiting room so I could talk to his mother, which was just awesome.” 

The supply guy 

You can find combs, thermometers, toothbrushes, blankets, catheters, and many other patient items in the supply room at WellSpan Waynesboro Hospital. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, you also can find Gary Daugherty. 

The 80-year-old Waynesboro man stocks the shelves and delivers supplies to different areas of the hospital. 

One of six kids, Gary started working when he was just 11, after his dad died. Later, after he retired from first the U.S. Air Force and then the U.S. postal service, he discovered he could not sit still.  

“I like the work, I like the hours, and I have a great bunch of people I work with,” he says. “They treat me just like anyone else. I have a little philosophy: if you can’t have fun at work why go in in the first place?” 

Gary, who notes he doesn’t think of himself as “being a day over 40,” says volunteering keeps him active. 

“I have many philosophies,” he notes. “You may have to age but don’t have to get old. Getting old is a mental thing. I like hanging out with younger people. They have more energy and vitality. Volunteering keeps me moving. It’s great.” 

Want to join our fantastic team of volunteers? Go here.