Volunteer Buddies Make Us Packard Proud

As of March 17, Volunteer Services and associated programs have been temporarily paused. We look forward to the return of our volunteers once the shelter-in-place order has been lifted, and are recognizing their year-round contributions during National Volunteer Week.  

A childhood cancer survivor and retired HR executive volunteer their free time helping sick kids at Packard Children's.

Tania Haake is a Buddy at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. Haake starts each shift in the Bass Childhood Cancer Center, where Haake has been volunteering for the past four years. But Haake’s first time inside the hospital didn’t begin after joining the program in 2016. Haake’s experience at Packard Children’s began as a patient in the oncology unit as a young child.

“When I was going through treatment I was just shy of the age of two,” Haake says. “My mom was a single mom of three children. To have heard the stories through my mom and my siblings, I realized the powerful impact of the Buddy Program and having volunteers in the hospital.”

Tania Haake is a childhood cancer survivor and volunteer Buddy at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford.

Tania Haake as a child with sister (left), and alongside mother and sibling (right)

Haake recently graduated from nursing school, and accepted a job at Stanford Hospital in the hematology and oncology unit.

“Full circle was my goal, and I am here,” Haake says. Haake brings a unique background and experience to the Hospital’s Volunteer Services program.

Haake along with other Buddies from the program, provide companionship to children from inpatient units across Packard Children’s. Buddies read stories and play games with patients and offer comfort and distraction.

“Sometimes patients are here alone and the only visitors they get are our volunteers,” say Buddy Program trainers, Andrea Benard and Monica Makela.

Buddies carry special iPhones and check in with the welcome desk by text message to follow up on requests from units. They offer support to the entire family during a child’s stay.

“Parents sometimes need to step away from the patient’s room, because they might need a break,” says Maria Nuñez, a family hospitality liaison who works at the welcome desk. “Other times parents have doctor’s meetings and they request to have a buddy volunteer to watch the patient’s sibling while they are away.”

Reading Buddy Program

Becky Ellis, a retired senior HR executive, splits her volunteer time as both a Buddy and a Reading Buddy in the Hospital’s Family Resource Center. The two programs are similar, but as a Reading Buddy, she selects age-appropriate books to read to children in the hospital.

“I try and select books that I think would be stimulating and entertaining for the children,” Ellis says. “Most of the patients I read to are babies or children under the age of four. Sometimes the kids are awake and many times they are resting quietly, only partially aware of their surroundings.”

Becky Ellis is a volunteer in the Buddy and Reading Buddy programs at Packard Children's.

Ellis has learned through her interaction with kids that just because they may not be wide awake or completely understand what she’s reading, they can still be entertained and comforted by having someone read to them.

“When I first started volunteering, I recall a nurse telling me that a patient’s vitals went down to a healthier level while I was reading, which was really positive and encouraging to me,” Ellis says.

For children and their families at Packard Children’s, Buddies have a meaningful impact on the lives of sick children.

“It is my hope that these kids will go home and lead normal lives eventually,” says Ellis. “What makes these volunteer opportunities rewarding for me is I can provide companionship and give these children love–hoping that somehow in the process of volunteering I’ve made a little difference in their life every day that I’m there.”

We appreciate the hundreds of dedicated volunteers at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford and Stanford Children’s Health. Learn more about our Volunteer Services and current openings available in our programs.  

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