Bob Zimmerman, Volunteer “Cuddler” Wins Visa Volunteer Award


Bob Zimmerman, volunteer “cuddler” at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford and a full-time Visa employee, received the Visa Volunteer Award for January-July 2014. As part of his recognition, Visa is donating $5,000 to the hospital in a salute to the work of cuddlers and other volunteers.

For most parents, transitioning from birth to bringing their premature child home can be quite stressful. The cuddlers offer an extra pair of arms to these babies during a very fragile time, thus reducing the strain of long hospitalizations on the staff, infants, and their families. Parents must sometimes be away from the bedside, and physicians and nurses have to be constantly focused on the patient’s essential medical needs. The cuddlers provide a way for the newborn’s personal needs to be met as well.

Zimmerman knew he wanted to work with babies, but didn’t know where to start. With the help of his friends, a series of interviews, many hours of training, and two classroom sessions, he qualified to become a trained cuddler. For the past 15 months, Zimmerman has dedicated every Thursday night to our premature babies, coming in from 9:00 p.m. to midnight. And this year, Bob was asked to participate on the “Cuddler Panel” which speaks to the class of new cuddlers, and he also served as mentor to a few of the new cuddlers from this 2014 class.

“I have my dream volunteer job,” said Zimmerman,  “When challenged to think of what my “dream” volunteer job would be, I replied that it would be holding babies. However, I quickly dismissed the thought, as there couldn’t possibly be such an opportunity,” Zimmerman said. “Thanks to a neighbor, I discovered this type of program actually did exist at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, and I became a trained cuddler in 2013.  Each time I enter the hospital for my shift, I feel honored to be a small part of the team of excellence taking care of these precious babies.”

For more information about the cuddler program, please see this profile of this program produced recently by ABC news, or check out the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford volunteer website.


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