The Frist Humanitarian Awards: Volunteers

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Volunteer Recipient: John McClenahan, Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center/Sunrise Children’s Hospital, Las Vegas, NV

The Staff of Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center and Sunrise Children’s Center definitely believe in magic. They see it year-round when John McClenahan, better known as Dr. Magic, comes to visit their young cancer patients and makes boredom and bad moods disappear.

For 18 years, Dr. Magic, assisted by his lovely wife Joan, has been visiting children in their rooms or in the playroom. He tells some jokes, performs a magic trick or two and does his best to fill their few minutes together with happiness.

“I don’t like to leave without at least one smile,” he says. “I’m not a real doctor, but I know that if the kids have a good time, that can help them get well. The reward I get from each visit is a smile.”

Dr. Magic was created soon after Joan, a pediatric social worker, applied to be a volunteer at Sunrise. Somebody mentioned the word “magic” and she immediately thought of her magician husband John. He embraced the idea of putting a show together for kids in the hospital and it was an immediate success. Though he only has a short amount of time with each patient, he has learned time and again that he leaves a lasting impression.

During one visit with Marcus, a teenager who had just had his leg amputated, Dr. Magic, pulled up his own pant leg to show the boy his prosthesis, and was rewarded with one of those treasured smiles. Dr. Magic lost his leg in a car accident when he was young, and knew that it would help Marcus to see that there were other people like him.

About nine years later, a man came up to Dr. Magic at the hospital. “Do you remember me?” he asked. It was Marcus, now married with a child of his own. He was in town on business and made a point of coming to the hospital on the day that he knew Dr. Magic would be there, to thank him.

More recently, Dr. Magic and Joan were greeted by a young woman doing an internship at Sunrise Hospital. It turned out that Dr. Magic and Joan had visited her 14 years ago. At the end of the visit they had a photo taken, which they put in a paper frame imprinted with the wish, “May you always have magic in your life.”

“I have kept that picture for 14 years,” the young woman said. “I put it on my desk wherever I go to remind me. You helped get me through cancer.”

Volunteer Finalist: Baby Ruth Boswell, Del Sol Medical Center, El Paso, TX

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For 20 years, Del Sol Medical Center staff, physicians, patients and visitors have appreciated the cheery personality and giving nature of volunteer Baby Ruth Boswell. She happily dives into a multitude of tasks, from taking the hospital’s therapy dog on its rounds, to helping with blood drives, guiding visitors at the information desk and more. In addition to all that she does as a volunteer, Boswell serves as the First Vice President of the hospital auxiliary board of directors, where her colleagues value her as a strong leader.

“She is fantastic to work with and serves as an example to the Junior Volunteers of a positive outlook on life,” says Patricia Olson, director for Hospital Auxiliary.

The youngest of 22 children, in a family that includes multiple sets of twins, Boswell has six children of her own. She adopted two of her granddaughters after their parents died in a car accident. She now has 10 grand- children and 24 great-grandchildren.

She is a valued member of her church who serves in many ways and participates in its many community outreach programs. She visits nursing home residents, mentors young women and sets aside time to pray for and with others. She has been recognized multiple times by the El Paso community for her volunteer efforts.

“Baby says that her favorite thing about volunteering at Del Sol Medical Center is the opportunity to serve others and make a difference,” says CEO Jacob Cintron. “We are fortunate to have a person of such character among our volunteer family at Del Sol Medical Center.”

Volunteer Finalist: Jim Pletscher, Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, Idaho Falls, ID

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When somebody at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center needs help on a task, they often turn to volunteer Jim Pletscher, who is always ready to assist. All they need to do is ask.

But Pletscher stands out at the hospital and in the Idaho Falls community because of all he does without being asked. When he drove the hospital shuttle, he constantly picked up trash left behind so that passengers would have a spotless ride. When he took on book cart duties, he didn’t just deliver magazines and books, he spent time with patients and families, offering words of encouragement.

“Jim can ease a broken heart and bring a smile to everyone he encounters,” says CEO Doug Crabtree. “Recently he finished a project with our ER director and noticed a patient alone and crying. Jim wasn’t on his official volunteer shift, but stopped and spent more than 30 minutes with this patient, encouraging her and listening to her. He put his other plans on the back burner because he knew, at that moment, that patient needed him.”

His colleagues and neighbors notice all that he does. In Idaho Falls, city officials and neighbors consider him a local hero, naming him Mr. Downtown last year for his community involvement. Pletscher also has received EIRMC’s Volunteer Humanitarian Award, and the City Council of Idaho Falls has honored him as well.

“What is so unique and refreshing is that most of Jim’s volunteer work seems to be spontaneous,” says Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper. “Every community needs a Jim Pletscher.”

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