I started with Gillette as a volunteer in the pool at the former Lake Phalen facility. In 1981, I became an employee, joining Gillette as the first director of pool therapy. I hold a doctorate of physical therapy degree, and I believe that water is an equalizing medium for a lifetime of fun! When you see a group of children having fun in an aquatic setting, there is little difference between those who have special needs and those who don’t.
Although I no longer work at Gillette, I began volunteering because I wanted to assist children who have differing abilities and educate them on how to be safe while enjoying the water. Since then I have served as a member of the fundraising organization Friends of Gillette, helped with fundraising events, and thrown monthly birthday parties for Gillette’s inpatient kids at the St. Paul campus.
Planning the monthly birthday parties brings me a lot of joy. I work with Gillette’s Child Life staff to find out if any inpatient kids have a birthday coming up. I then develop a party theme for them. It’s the little things—like finding out if the birthday child is a boy or girl and learning their interests—that make planning the parties fun. On birthday party nights, all inpatient kids are invited. I bring in crafts for special projects and an ice cream cake from the North St. Paul Dairy Queen.
My goal is to plan activities that will interest children of various ages. I bring crafts that allow patients to complete a project as independently as possible—from choosing the activity to choosing the materials to completing the project. The kids can decide whether to make something for themselves or for someone else. If a patient has siblings, I bring enough materials so that everyone can participate. Parents often enjoy working on the activities, too!
I’m inspired to volunteer as part of my philosophy of working with all children in our community. I continue to volunteer at Gillette because of the hospital's mission and vision. I’m inspired by the dedication of the hospital's leaders and by Gillette’s research efforts, leading edge medical care, and exemplary care for anyone who seeks the organization’s medical services.
And I’m really looking forward to Gillette’s new therapy pool opening later this year!