A personal experience, Sue and Alf McLellan

April 11, 2016

April 10 to April 16, 2016 is National Volunteer Week and the recognition is well deserved for the nearly 900 individuals who donate their time to help others at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC). Each year, LHSC’s Volunteer Services holds an appreciation event where all volunteers are thanked for their work and those who volunteer for five or more years are recognized with a Long Service Award.

This year, 55 volunteers will receive Long Service Awards: 24 5-year recipients; 13 10-year recipients; nine 15-year recipients; five 20-year recipients; three 25-year recipients; and one 35-year recipient.

Volunteering can be an individual endeavor, but many couples enjoy volunteering due to a shared sense of purpose in helping others. 

When most volunteers are asked what motivates them the answer typically involves a desire to ‘give back.’ For Sue and Alf McLellan that desire is quite literal after Alf was diagnosed and treated for prostate and colon cancer. 

“I want to pay it forward because I was a patient here,” says Alf, who has been volunteering at the London Regional Cancer Program since 2012. “During my treatment I was helped by volunteers and I feel I now have something to offer others. I can relate with other patients and give them hope because I survived.” Known as the cookie man, Alf provides cookies to patients undergoing chemotherapy. He also serves hard and soft candies and retrieves file folders from clinics to the chemotherapy suite. “Cancer treatments continue to improve, there is more success than ever, and there is always hope.”

Sue is motivated by support Alf received, but she has her own motivation as well; she is a retired nurse. “I’m very comfortable in the hospital environment and volunteering adds structure to my week. I feel like I’m part of the team. Sue has been volunteering since 2011 and assists visitors and staff in the perioperative waiting room. She enjoys helping visitors navigate the system while their loved one is in surgery, from the waiting room, to post-operative care, to recovery. She also enjoys working with student volunteers, many who are just beginning to explore possible careers in health care. 

Sue and Alf both see their roles as assistants or guides first and supporters second. “As volunteers we are navigators, facilitators, supporters and reassurors,” laughs Sue.