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Special Care for Special Folks

Volunteer Voice - Fall 2010

Celebrate A Star

If you spend much time at MD Anderson, you’re most likely familiar with the Celebrate A Star cards and balloons displayed on bulletin boards around the institution.

Celebrate A Star is one of the nicest ways for patients and caregivers to recognize an employee, says Frances Snipes, program coordinator. The program, which was developed by Patient Advocacy in 1992, became a placement for Volunteer Services in 1994.

Each week, volunteers Doug Burchfield and Marilyn Flick come to the Volunteer Services office and begin blowing up balloons and attaching them to the special cards sent in by patients and their caregivers. Faculty and staff are acknowledged for the “easy stick” in the Diagnostic Center, for kind words given during a difficult time and even just for listening when someone needs someone to talk to.

The Celebrate A Star cards are available in most clinics and have an area designated for comments. The completed cards are either returned to Volunteer Services through interoffice mail or are picked up by the Celebrate A Star volunteers as they make their route delivering cards and balloons throughout the institution.

One of the most touching stories that has come from the Celebrate A Star program involved a woman who found 10 to 15 of the completed cards among her husband’s effects. The cards made their way back to Volunteer Services and some two years after the patient’s death, the cards were delivered to the designated faculty/staff members. At that time, all but one of the recipients were still employed by MD Anderson.

Volunteers who work with this program believe that everyone should be recognized because so many people contribute to the quality of care received at MD Anderson.

“It’s amazing what a helium balloon will do to lift someone’s spirits. Everyone loves to receive them,” says Snipes.

The Rose Garden

You’ve probably noticed the rose bushes blooming along the front of MD Anderson. Officially designated as the Tom Jean Moore Memorial Rose Garden, the beds are full of color during rose season. This longtime program began in 1978 with volunteer Tom Jean Moore, who wished to benefit all MD Anderson patients.

Volunteers who work with the roses receive a four-hour training session from a Facilities horticulturist, where they learn basic care and how to properly cut the roses for distribution to patients. Once the roses have been cut, the volunteer brings them into Volunteer Services and places them in a vase (filled with water, of course) adorned with a tag saying “Volunteer Rose Garden – Please enjoy this rose from the Tom Jean Moore Memorial Rose Garden. Funding provided by the Volunteer Endowment for Patient Support.”

The roses are delivered by volunteer floor hosts to inpatients, says Catherine Caverly, volunteer coordinator. “Normally, floor hosts ask the unit nurses who should receive the special roses and they’re often given to a patient needing a lift or to one having a birthday,” she says.

The rose garden sites change due to construction, but there are always blooms to share.

Net Notes

When you’re a patient at MD Anderson, you’re often removed from family and friends, so it’s a warm feeling to receive a personal message from them via the Net Notes program.

Elke Groomer, senior secretary in the Volunteer Services office, manages this program. She explains that on the top menu bar of the MD Anderson website is a link that says “Contact Us.” If you click on this, you’ll be taken to a page offering various methods of contact, one of which is under the Patients, Friends & Family heading. Simply click on the “Send a message to a patient” link to go to a form to complete that includes information about who the message is from, who it is going to and then, of course, the message itself.

Once the form is completed and sent, it is received by Health Information Services. The message is acknowledged and then sent to Groomer who prints it out and places it in an envelope with a special Net Notes stamp. After that, it’s a matter of “special delivery” by a volunteer.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center