Press Release

AHA Honors Four Hospital Volunteer Programs

The American Hospital Association (AHA) will honor four hospital volunteer programs with its Hospital Awards for Volunteer Excellence (HAVE). The AHA HAVE Awards Program is in its 34th year and highlights the extraordinary efforts of volunteers and volunteer programs and the positive impact their contributions have on the patients, hospitals, health systems and communities they serve.

 The winners fall into four categories: community service programs, community outreach and/or collaboration programs, fundraising programs, and in-service hospital volunteer programs. Recipients of this year’s prestigious award hail from Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. Representatives from these winning programs will receive their awards at the HAVE Awards Breakfast on Monday, May 8, during the AHA Annual Membership Meeting in Washington, D.C.

 The 2017 HAVE winners are:

Community Service Programs

“Camp Charlie”

Abington-Jefferson Health – Willow Grove, Penn.

 Camp Charlie is a free expressive arts bereavement camp run by the volunteers and staff of Safe Harbor, Abington-Jefferson Health’s peer support program for grieving children, teens and families. The five-day camp for youth who have lost a parent or sibling is an intensive experience for healing held each June and features activities related to music, art, drama and movement. 

 The camp is an extension of the regular Safe Harbor peer-support groups offered free of charge from September through May. The Camp Charlie curriculum focuses on four tasks of grieving:  acknowledging the death, saying goodbye, reliving memories and memorializing their loved ones.

 In the first 10 years, Camp Charlie, which began in 2007, served 550 grieving children and teens. The first camp had 33 participants. In 2016, with the help of 30 volunteers, the camp served 65 campers and peer-buddies. After attending the camp, 96 percent of the children and teens report feeling more hopeful about the future and 79 percent indicate it is easier to talk to their families about the death of their loved ones.

 Camp Charlie volunteers design and implement a variety of projects, team games and individual activities. Volunteers include teen-buddies, who are high school students who attend camp in a peer-support role. Many shy, unsure campers have found new friends and courage through the gentle support of their teen-buddies. Campers leave camp knowing they are not alone in their grief, recognizing that despite continuing to miss their loves ones, it is OK to be a child who laughs and plays.

 Community Outreach and/or Collaboration

“AOMC Poison Prevention Program”

Arnot Ogden Medical Center – Elmira, NY

 Volunteers with the Arnot Ogden Medical Center Poison Prevention Program empower young children to take an active role in personal safety through education presented in pre-K, kindergarten and first grade classrooms. Using a message coordinated through the regional poison prevention center and made age-appropriate through a volunteer-created story, illustration and props, volunteers make more than 250 visits annually to schools in a six-county, two-state area.

 Through an enthusiastic presentation of a simple message, the volunteers aim to leave every child with a lifetime reminder: “If you don’t know what it is, stay away.” The curriculum was created at the prompting of emergency department nurses at a time when accidental child poisoning was more prevalent. Since launching in 1994, the Poison Prevention Program curriculum has reached more than 68,000 children through 3,700 presentations. In the 2015-2016 school year, 10 volunteer presenters educated more than 5,000 children through 258 presentations in 67 schools in six counties. Surveys indicate 100 percent of the schools report the program is effective and age-appropriate, and that they are interested in a return visit.

 A hospital volunteer and former educator incorporated poison prevention messages into an original story featuring fictional characters: “Twitch and Twiggle Learn to Stay Away from Poison.” The stories and activities include warnings about drinking under-the-sink poisons and pills, as well as laundry detergent pods and e-cigarette flavorings. In the 1950s, there was an average of three child poisonings reported in the area per week.  In 2015, Arnot Health recorded no cases for the entire year. 

 Fundraising Programs

Friends of the Heart”

Doylestown Health – Doylestown, Penn.

 Friends of the Heart Institute is an all-volunteer organization consisting of dedicated community members and caregivers who are committed to ensuring patients and their loved ones have access to the very best cardiac and vascular care close to home. Since its founding in 1978, Friends of the Heart Institute has raised more than $1.6 million for state-of-the-art medical and surgical equipment, patient-friendly exercise equipment used for cardiac rehabilitation, and staff training and continuing education for the cardiac and vascular clinical teams. Friends of the Heart Institute also focuses on community wellness and prevention by funding “Walk With A Doc,” an exercise program which encourages physical activity and community camaraderie every month.

 Friends of the Heart Institute raises funds through annual memberships, donations and special fundraising events like the popular spring Heart Brunch, now in its 17th year, and the always-fun Cardiac Cook-Off, which pits teams of cardiologists and local top chefs against each other in a heart-healthy friendly competition.

 Friends of the Heart Institute remains steadfast in its commitment to supporting the health and well-being of those who choose Doylestown Health's Richard A. Reif Heart Institute for their heart care.

 In-Service Hospital Volunteer Programs

“Hospital Elder Life Program”

Clara Maass Medical Center – Belleville, NJ

 To address the needs of its older patients, volunteers in the Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP) provide extra attention and care to senior citizens admitted to the hospital. HELP volunteers engage with patients aged 70 and older with interventions that address a broad scope of geriatric issues to prevent cognitive and functional decline.

 HELP volunteers use a holistic approach and consider each patient as a whole individual, with many aspects affecting recovery, emotional state and overall wellbeing. Staff implement individualized interventions after assessing the patients for their risk of cognitive/physical decline utilizing evidence-based screening tools. Patients are screened for falls, pressure ulcers, frailty, disorientation and incontinence. Volunteers then engage the patients in activities related to cognitive orientation, therapeutic techniques (board games, relaxation and music therapy), mobilization and range of motion exercises, hearing and vision aids, feeding assistance and fluid repletion.

In a recent two-year period, 577 patients were enrolled in HELP. With the volunteers’ assistance, 48 percent of the patients improved their baseline functioning and 45 percent maintained it. In addition to aiding the patients physically, HELP volunteers often establish an emotional connection with the patients, alleviating their anxieties and fears of the unknown. The program has volunteers with many of the same backgrounds, languages, cultures and religions as the patients. Some 19 HELP volunteers donate 150 hours per week working with patients. Many of the volunteers are students who use their volunteer service as a means of exploring health careers.

About the AHA

The AHA is a not-for-profit association of health care provider organizations and individuals that are committed to the health improvement of their communities. The AHA is the national advocate for its members, which include nearly 5,000 hospitals, health care systems, networks, other providers of care and 43,000 individual members. Founded in 1898, the AHA provides education for health care leaders and is a source of information on health care issues and trends. For more information, visit the AHA website at

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