OHSU celebrates Volunteer Week

The word “volunteer” was first used around the year 1600 and comes from the Latin “of one’s free will.” Years later, the state of Tennessee became known as the “Volunteer State,” when – during the Mexican war – a call for 2,800 volunteers brought forth nearly 30,000 men.

Every year, hundreds of Oregonians freely offer up their valuable time and resources to support our patients, staff and students. When we make the call, OHSU volunteers respond.

About 500 active OHSU volunteers average nearly 70,000 hours of service each year, including 14 animal assisted therapy teams (meet one below, who’s been bringing furry joy to OHSU patients for 22 years!).

In honor of Volunteer Week, we’re taking a moment to say thank you and recognize just a handful of the special people who selflessly serve our community.

Volunteer: Lyrrel Lombard

Years of Service: 15

Volunteer Type: Baby Cuddler, OHSU Doernbecher Neonatal Care Center (DNCC).

Every week, Lyrrel Lombard heads for the DNCC, where she volunteers her time assisting NICU staff by holding tiny patients, keeping pacifiers in, amusing babies who are awake or singing them to sleep. A former school counselor, Lyrrel has six grandchildren and a great-grandchild of her own. Although she loves the time she spends with patients, her favorite part is watching families head home with their infants. “Leaving,” she said, “is joyous.”


Volunteer: Bruce Reed

Years of Service: 24

Volunteer Type: Information Desk, OHSU Casey Eye Institute.

Bruce Reed serves at the Casey’s Information Desk, where he gives directions, answers questions and helps patients to their cars. A member of the Elks since 1955, 86-year-old Bruce is passionate about pediatric eye health. His favorite part of his job is seeing lives improved through the work being done at OHSU. “It’s been a great experience working here,” Bruce said. “Great place, great people, great function.” Click here to learn more about how the Elks support OHSU’s Casey Eye Institute.


Volunteer: Huck Finn

Years of Service: 4 (Carol, his pet parent, has volunteered for 22!)

Volunteer Type: Animal Assisted Therapy Cat.

If you spend any time on the 10th floor of OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, you’ll likely run into Huck Finn – a quiet, laid-back cat with a checkered past. Huck loves getting wheeled around, bringing smiles to passing patients, or lying on kids’ beds to be petted. So, with all of that chauffering, can Huck walk? Rest assured, Huck gets his daily exercise from what Carol calls his “wild and crazy period,” about 30 seconds each day. Learn more about Huck here!


Volunteer: Jennifer Thornton

Years of Service: 7

Volunteer Type: Chemo Pal with Children’s Cancer Association. The Chemo Pals program matches adults with kids undergoing cancer treatment.

Jennifer Thornton is one of many OHSU employees, who volunteer as a Chemo Pal mentor. What does Jennifer love best about being a volunteer? “Their smile as soon as you walk into the room is priceless. Chemo Pals can bring so much joy in those difficult times. Kids don’t want to be sick or constantly poked at the doctor’s office, but they can count on us to bring their favorite toys and games to make their day a little better.” Click here to meet more Chemo Pal mentors, and here to learn more about how you can get involved in the program.

Volunteer: Nancy Downie

Years of Service: 4

Volunteer Type: Certified Music Practitioner, sharing the healing power of music on Bone Marrow Transplant, Adult Oncology, Cardiovascular and Orthopedics units.

Since 2011, Nancy has volunteered about 1,250 hours of her time playing the hammered dulcimer and Native American flutes across many OHSU units, as well as in the main entrance lobby during the holidays. “Something special happens just about every day,” Nancy said. Over the years, Nancy has collected a great deal of memorable moments, including meeting an elderly woman whose sister only had a few hours to live. She returned to Nancy a few minutes later to tell her, “Thank you. Your music made me feel better.”


Volunteer: Patricia O’Shea

Years of Service: 5

Volunteer Type: Brain Resource Center and BRAINet, OHSU Brain Institute.

Patricia helps maintain the library of resources available to patients with neurological disorders. “It’s a very exciting time in brain development research. There are incredible advancements that have been made in imaging techniques and other research that informs the development of targeted therapies. Researchers are chipping away at finding the underlying causes of various brain disorders. People should feel very hopeful.” Click here to learn more about Patricia and additional opportunities to volunteer with the OHSU Brain Institute.

Are you interested in becoming a volunteer at OHSU? Visit us here for more information on how to apply.
Jessica Columbo is OHSU’s Social Media Manager. She can be reached at socialmedia@ohsu.edu. You can also join the conversation on Facebook or follow OHSU on Twitter and Instagram.