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Eagle Scout, Elks Lodge and others stock cart to brighten patient days

Vancouver | February 8, 2021
Zach Godoy shows off items for activity cart
Volunteers share books, puzzles, stuffed animals, reading glasses and other goodies with hospital patients and visitors.
The story below was written before the pandemic. We don't currently have volunteers helping with the activity cart, but patients could still use things to help them pass the time during their stay. Donations can be dropped off with greeters at the hospital.

Hours can tick by slowly when you’re a patient or a visitor in the hospital—unless you have something to keep you busy.

It’s something Kristy Murray noticed when one of her own family members had several extensive hospital stays over a two-year period.Andy Sutherland and Kristy Murray

“There’s only so much TV one can watch,” she says.

It wasn’t long after that experience that Kristy became the volunteer coordinator at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver, Washington.

Brainstorming ideas

Given her firsthand experience of hospital life from a family member's point of view, she and her manager in the Volunteer Office discussed ideas to make the days and nights feel less long for patients and visitors.

They decided to purchase a cart that could be wheeled around the hospital. With money from their own pockets, Kristy and her manager bought a wide range of goodies to stock the cart with, including these popular items:

  • Reading glasses
  • Word search books
  • Crossword puzzles
  • Sudoku puzzles
  • Decks of cards
  • Colored pencils
  • Coloring books for adults
  • Small boxes of crayons

Andy Sutherland talks with a patient“We had a few volunteers who started taking the cart around the hospital, including waiting rooms,” notes Kristy. It was slow on the nursing units at first, but it wasn’t long before the cart became a hit. Caregivers now call the Volunteer Office and ask for the cart or specific things from it.

Generous donors have eagerly stepped up to ensure the cart is always well-stocked. Everything on it is now provided by donation.

Eagle Scout Project

Zach Godoy, a scout in east Vancouver’s Boy Scout Troop no. 309, adopted the activity cart as his Eagle Scout project. “My dad (Ramon Godoy, RN) worked at the hospital at the time and he gave me the idea,” says Zach. “I talked with Kristy and got the project going.” (Congratulations to Zach on achieving his Eagle Scout rank in 2020.)

Along with his dad, he called various stores in the area to solicit donations and received a good response. Many of them gave gift cards that Zach and his support team—members of his troop and family—could then use to shop for items. Getting to choose items with his siblings and fellow scouts was part of what made the effort fun.

He hopes his project will help the activity cart continue to roll along, helping patients make their stay in the hospital more pleasant.

Books, magazines and reading glasses

Kristy says caregivers and volunteers bring books to share on the cart. Some bring bags of items from the dollar store every week, others bring magazines.

“Reading glasses are asked for the most,” she chuckles, “You can’t sign a consent if you can’t see!”

In 2017, the Vancouver Elks Lodge no. 823 offered to donate stuffed animals to the pediatric unit. Since the PeaceHealth hospital in Vancouver treats very few children, Kristy told them about the activity cart. “They loved the idea!,” she shares.

Stuffed animals from Elks

Since then, George Brown and the Elks have brought 2,100 stuffed animals to help comfort patients (and families) of all ages. The lodge brings a new batch of animals once or twice a month.Andy Sutherland checks list in activity cart

“In fact, caregivers sometimes call down specifically for a stuffed animal to help calm a patient or for one who is missing their pets,” Kristy says.

Last fall, she had the pleasure of sharing at an Elks meeting about the positive impact their donations have had on patients and the community.

“The stuffed animals and the activity cart have really become a part of our culture at PeaceHealth Southwest,” she says.

In addition to activity items, the inventory also includes hats and blankets knitted by community volunteers. Since hospital rooms can be quite cold, these items are especially popular with guests, keeping them warm as they visit patients.

Volunteer rounds

Andrew Sutherland, a volunteer at the hospital since December 2019, makes the rounds with the cart a few hours a week. On each floor, he first checks in at the nurses’ stations to see if any patients might like him to stop by.

List in hand, Andrew makes his way room to room. Patients and visitors appreciate his sunny smile and light conversation, whether they accept an item from the cart or not.

What do patients and families say about items they receive from the cart? Here are a few of their heartwarming comments:

  • You made my day!  You made me feel happy!
  • So sweet!
  • Very kind of you.
  • It’s a good thing you do, making patients happy.
  • I appreciate your coming to visit.
  • I’ve been here for two weeks. Look what I got!  I’m so stoked! (The patient received a stuffed lamb and a book.) The lamb and I will read.
  • Thank you., This is so nice!
  • You brightened my day!
  • I was so bored – look at these gifts!
  • Wow, I was going crazy in here. Thanks!
  • I don’t have my puppy with me so this will do!
  • What an amazing service!
  • It’s the day before my birthday, I’ve always wanted one (plush toy)!
  • I can keep this? (With tears in her eyes, the patient hugged her new stuffed animal.)
  • I appreciate this a lot more than you know.

Kristy is amazed by the difference the activity cart has made in just a few short years…not only for those who receive the gifts, but also for those who take such joy in giving them.

Time will never fly for a patient in the hospital, but the activity cart can make it a little more bearable.

Top:  Zach Godoy shows off a few of the items obtained through his Eagle Scout project for the PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center.
Second:  Volunteer Andrew Sutherland and Volunteer Coordinator Kristy Murray show off the activity cart loaded with some of items for patients and visitors.

Third:  Andy chats with a patient and offers an item from the activity cart.
Bottom:  Andy checks the list for special requests before setting out with the activity cart.

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