Not all acts of kindness are random.

Sometimes, they take decades of work from very dedicated individuals to come together.

“Initially, my husband was a patient at the hospital. He had gone into the JGH for spinal surgery. He ended up having to get a 6-7 hour operation. In thanks, we asked his neurologist if he had a wish list, and that we’d like to help. He said: ‘what we need is a stroke unit where patients who are admitted to the hospital through emergency can be diagnosed quickly and could bypass all the other levels’. So, we went to work,” shared Rona Davis. “My husband and I co-chaired this fundraising initiative, and we raised funds necessary to start up a stroke unit.”

For over twenty years, Rona has been spreading kindness at the JGH through her efforts at the JGH Foundation.

One of her latest and greatest projects came to life in 2014 when Danyael Cantor, Director, Development at the Foundation, and Maxine Lithwick, Director of Social Services at the JGH, approached Rona with a concept that originated in the United States called the Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP).

“The impetus for accepting to chair this program came from my late mother, who, prior to her death at age 102, had been hospitalized on several occasions, where she had experienced temporary dementia. It’s too bad a program like this did not exist when she required it,” Rona admitted.

Operating three shifts per day seven days a week–including mornings, afternoons and evenings—HELP is an innovative approach that uses dedicated volunteers to improve care for elderly patients in a hospital setting. The donor-funded program ensures the best care possible for inpatient stays and facilitates their transition from hospital to home.

HELP’s goal is to assist seniors and help them maintain their functionality and prevent delirium during hospitalization through a series of exercises and activities customized to meet their particular needs. The program relies on trained volunteers to provide five types of interventions–to stimulate mental, physical and social well-being: daily orientation, basic active exercises, meal assistance, recreational activities, and sleeping protocol.

Thanks to various supporters, connections and contacts, along with the guidance of Dr. Ruby Friedman, Director of Geriatrics at the JGH and his very dedicated team of hospital staff, Rona assisted in getting HELP up and running, even winning HELP an award from Caisse Desjardins in 2019, which saw it named one of the 10 best projects in humane care.

“The goal of this project is to be in every unit of the JGH,” Rona added. “It’s been everyone’s goal!”

When the pandemic hit, HELP was active in 5 hospital units.

Now, TeleHELP, a digital resource and e-version of the in-person initiative is expected to be available to at-home patients in the coming weeks.

“In 2019, we established an educational partnership with McGill University’s School of Occupational and Physical Therapy. This summer, we had occupational therapy students researching our project but due to COVID-19 the 2019-2020 school year was discontinued for courses and on-site training at the JGH and they couldn’t finish their year’s course curriculum. The installing of TeleHELP addresses 2 issues: primarily as outreach to at-home former HELP patients while, secondarily, assisting last year’s students in completing their curriculum,” Rona added.

One can easily see that the level of kindness Rona has brought to the table is unparalleled. She wants others to know that a common thread of kindness can bind us.

“The world is much greater than ourselves–there’s such a feeling of completeness that comes from helping others, especially with COVID-19, where we are alone a lot. It’s easy to become self-absorbed. As a volunteer and helping others, one receives much more than what one gives. It’s wonderful, and it expands your horizons, and it always teaches you new things. There’s so much you can get out of it.”