Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital, is blessed with many outstanding volunteers. Here you can meet a few of our dedicated Pet Therapy volunteers.
Caio Stinchi & Super Lance
Volunteer Caio Stinchi and pet therapist Super Lance recently received the email below from a patient’s family member. Caio says that this email represents the reason why he and his wife, Claudia Machado volunteer at Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital. “These e-mails are priceless for us and also for NCH. We are really proud to participate in the Pet Therapy Program. As long as Super Lance is healthy, he will continue doing it,” said Caio.
We came across an article about you and said “hey, we know him!” We met you at NCH over the holidays in the neurology unit. I just wanted to tell you, you brightened not just our day, but our whole lengthy visit. My daughter is non-verbal and has autism and seizures. That day was a rough one and she didn’t seem to respond to you much at all. You see, she had been regressing for the last two years and had lost almost all of her skills. Coming to NCH from out of town was kind of a last ditch effort to find some hope for her condition. Later though, when we looked through your book, she would smile every time we mentioned your name. You reminded us that anything is possible. Thanks for the work you do and please let your owners know that even the kids who don’t seem to respond are taking it all in and are so grateful that you come to see them. We all agree that you are really cute and truly are “super.”
Signed a grateful patient family
The Community and Volunteer Resource Department is proud of all its volunteers and the different programs it sponsors. The Pet Therapy program is enjoyed by patients, families and staff. Here is a letter of appreciation from a grateful parent:
“I am writing to say ‘thank you’ and let you know how your ‘pet therapy’ program touched me. They had just taken my 5-year-old son for surgery, and I had done everything up to that point not to lose (my composure). When they wheeled him off into the operating room, I sobbed for a while in the bathroom and then sat down in the waiting room. In walked an angel in the form of a dog. “Koko” and her owner came in and made their way around the room. My husband even commented to me later on that my whole face changed when Koko walked in.
I love Golden Retrievers, but more importantly, I love dogs! About 15 minutes prior to that my son was telling the surgeon that he loves dogs and his mom is a “dog trainer.” I’m not a trainer, but I do “dog sitting.” Dogs to me are so special. They bring so much joy into this world, which can be a very harsh place. Petting and looking at Koko reminded me of my own Lab, which is turn gave me happier thoughts.
So, thank you so much for having this program, and thank you to Koko’s owner for volunteering her time, and for walking in with Koko, that angel in the form of a dog, at the moment I needed it most.”
Note: Lori Moldovan, our Pet Therapy volunteer, has been bringing Koko to visit the hospital every week for the past 18 months. Lori considers it a “privilege and honor to visit the children and see what a difference Koko and I can make in their lives.”
Thank you, Lori and Koko, you do make a difference!
When Chester woke up, it seemed a day like any other. He launched into his usual routine: Get up, stretch, scratch, and go outside for some fresh air. After eating breakfast and licking the bowl clean, he was ready for the day.
Being very people oriented, he thought, “Why not go over to Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital, and see what’s going on.” So, after waking up his “mother,” Stephanie, they got in the car to head to NCH. Upon arrival, his head was buzzing about what he wanted to do and where he wanted to go. Since he loved children so much, he thought maybe he would apply for a job. So, the first stop was Human Resources.
The nice staff at HR gave him an application to fill out. They were so impressed with him, that after reviewing his resume and consulting briefly among themselves, they offered him a position in the Emergency Department on the spot. Wow! He was so excited. Perhaps the staff was in awe of his attire. After all, he had on brand new scrubs, complete with a spiffy stethoscope.
Wanting to share in his elation about his new position, off he went to administration to introduce himself to the “Top Dawgs” on the third floor. Even though there was a meeting going on, the administration staff welcomed him warmly and offered him refreshments. After satisfying his thirst with several rounds of water served by the CEO, Chester continued around the conference table greeting his new co-workers. What fun this was going to be! A great job at NCH surrounded by great people.
Before leaving the building, Chester had one more stop. After hearing about the Education and Staff Development Department, he wanted to introduce himself, and let the staff know he would soon be available for coaching and mentoring. The visit was a huge success and before he knew it, he was booked for several conferences and seminars. This day was totally awesome.
Soon, it was time to leave, but not without stopping at the Community and Volunteer Resource Department. Everyone there is always extremely friendly, and there are usually nice treats to munch. So, Chester and his “mother” walked over to tell us about his good fortune in being hired, and how grandly he had been treated.
We all gave Chester a big round of applause for his achievements, while he looked at us modestly with those big brown eyes. Is NCH a great place to be, or what!!!
Note: This is the first in a series of “A Day in the Life of—Chester.” Chester is a handsome Swiss Mountain Dog, owned by Stephanie Figueroa.
Originally from Brooklyn, NY, volunteer Stephanie Figueroa grew up in Florida, raised two children, and managed her own gift shop. Presently, Stephanie is a Pet Therapy Program volunteer, who brings in Chester MacDougal, a Swiss Mountain dog, every week. Chester is well known for his cowboy hat and western attire.
Stephanie has always been active in volunteer work, particularly with the Humane Society and the ASPCA. Before coming to NCH, Stephanie and Chester visited nursing homes, but her goal was always to volunteer at NCH. The patients react very positively towards Chester when he enters a room, and Stephanie also enjoys seeing the delight on the faces of the doctors, nurses and family members. Seeing Stephanie and Chester is a great distraction for the kids, who take their medications or shots much more easily with these special visitors in the room.
Stephanie enjoys gardening, reading and traveling, but volunteering with Chester at NCH is her all-time favorite pastime!
Every Monday, volunteer Katherine Wedekind and her dog Sophie, participate in the Pet Therapy program at Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital. Originally from Indiana, Katherine moved to Florida about 15 years ago. Katherine has been a flight attendant for the past 13 years and is a former social worker and adoption counselor. Katherine’s husband was involved in the Pet Therapy program at various nursing homes. Katherine felt that her love for children and her love for Sophie could be incorporated into a rewarding experience at Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital. “I love seeing the smile on the children’s faces when I walk into a room,” Katherine says. “This past week, a little boy remembered Sophie from a previous visit, and it was so heart warming to see the joy on his face when he saw Sophie again.” Katherine loves the fact that parents are so appreciative of her and Sophie’s visits, and the staff always greets her with warmth and enthusiasm. The Community and Volunteer Resource Department (CVR) presently has 14 Pet Therapy dogs that volunteer at NCH on a weekly basis. CVR feels fortunate to have such a loyal, dedicated, and compassionate group of volunteers make a difference for hospitalized children every day.