Lend a Hand at Craig Hospital

December 9, 2015
This December, The Dime is taking on the theme of giving back. We have dedicated a portion of our posts, including our weekly Dime Roll, to introducing volunteering opportunities all over the state and other ways for everyone to lend a hand or give back to the community.

As part of the Dime’s December emphasis on Colorado organizations that give back to the community and provide volunteer opportunities, today we are featuring the volunteering program at Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colorado.  Craig Hospital is a not-for-profit facility specializing in the rehabilitation of patients with spinal cord injuries (SCI) and traumatic brain injuries (TBI).  Over 30,000 SCI and TBI patients have been treated at Craig, which has been a specialty hospital since 1956.  Craig Hospital offers volunteer opportunities for dedicated individuals seeking to make a difference to patients’ lives.  “Craig Hospital is very proud of the over 200 regularly scheduled volunteers who provide assistance in hospital areas including but not limited to; Food Service, Therapeutic Recreation, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Research, Foundation, Nursing, Administration and the Gift Shop,” provides Jill Stelley Virden, the Volunteer Manager at Craig.  “Our Spinal Cord and Traumatic Brain Injured patients are admitted for one week to many months and they benefit from the volunteer program every day, in so many ways,” she adds. PERA Executive Assistant to the Board of Trustees, Maureen Cowell, who has been with PERA for over nine years, shared thoughts about her experience volunteering at Craig Hospital with the Dime.

 T  Maureen - Craig Hospital

Thank you for sharing your volunterring experiences with us, Maureen.

How long have you been volunteering at Craig Hospital?

I have been volunteering at Craig Hospital going on 2 years.

What types of volunteering opportunities are offered at Craig Hospital?

The volunteer positions vary from hands-on patient contact such as helping in the therapy departments, to assisting in non-clinical areas of the hospital. Volunteer times vary depending on the needs of each department. Rehab engineering, adaptive technology lab, gift shop, Therapeutic Recreation, Physical Therapy and Research are just some of the many areas in the hospital that use volunteers. Based on the needs in the hospital, prospective volunteers are matched to assignments that align with their interests and availability. All volunteers must attend a mandatory orientation. Additional training is provided by the department in which they will work.

How did you become involved with volunteering at Craig Hospital?

I had met someone that had been in Craig as a patient. I talked to this person for hours and not enough could be said about the experience he and his family had. He actually said that he wouldn’t be where he was today mentally and physically without the wonderful help he received at Craig Hospital.

What do you do during a typical volunteering shift at Craig Hospital?

I volunteer in the Therapeutic Recreation Room at the hospital. The Therapeutic Recreation Program at Craig Hospital promotes overall fitness and well-being, with the goal of improving, maintaining or restoring physical strength, cognition, and mobility for someone with a nervous system injury through recreational activity.

I have helped in the following areas:

  • Stained Glass
  • Blow darts
  • Bocce Ball
  • Leather crafts
  • Baking
  • Bowling outing
  • Denver Aquarium outing
  • Personalized coasters and frames
  • Manicures – they have just asked me to take this over
  • Fundraisers
  • Creating tie-dye shirts
  • Making brunch for the patients and their families
  • Easter Egg Hunt
  • Outdoor grilling – making such things as banana boats & s’mores J
  • Assisting in large events

What do you consider to be the most challenging aspect of your volunteering?

The most challenging aspect of volunteering is trying not to get too attached to the patients and their families. The patient is there for a minimum of three months and then they head back home, the majority of them are from out of state. Honestly, a part of my heart hurts when I have to say goodbye.

What do you consider to be the most rewarding aspect?

The most rewarding part is that I make so many friends. I love to go that extra mile to make the patients smile and laugh.  I have brought lunch to someone on a weekend and just sat and visited with the patient for hours. One patient was signed up to go to a Bronco game last year and didn’t have a warm hat to wear so I went out and bought him a Bronco stocking cap. There are times when I have just a busy day at work and I am so tired, just want to go home but I am scheduled to volunteer. When I get there, I have this amazing energy that comes over me and I could stay for hours at Craig. Everyone from staff to patients to the families have such positive energy! I have learned from the patients themselves to never give up on anything you want to achieve. Take little steps and in time you will not believe what you can accomplish. I had one patient tell me that he is trying outside activities that he never tried before the accident. Craig Hospital as a whole is rewarding to me, I cannot thank them enough for including me in their family!