Roger Littlejohns, a volunteer at St. Joseph’s Parkwood Institute, jokingly admits that people sometimes forget his name when he starts his weekly shift– but they never forget Halle’s, his seven-year-old black lab.
Every Tuesday, Roger and Halle give their time by providing pet therapy to individuals at Parkwood Institute’s Mental Health Care Building. St. Joseph's mental health care program offers specialized services focused on hope and recovery for individuals living with a mental illness.
For the past six years, this dynamic duo also makes a special visit on Christmas Day to spread a little extra holiday cheer for patients who may not be seeing family or friends.
“It simply puts a smile on their faces,” says Roger. “For a brief moment, they just forget about everything and enjoy the company of Halle. They talk about pets they have or used to have and it’s great to see them smile, laugh and interact with her.”
For Roger and Halle, the benefits of volunteering go both ways. “Halle has become more sociable and she enjoys the time out,” says Roger. “It’s been a great thing for us to do together.”
Now retired, volunteering has also provided Roger with an opportunity to support a cause that’s close to his heart.
“As someone who has a family member living with a mental illness and received care at St. Joseph’s, it’s also my way of giving back to a place that has helped my family out so much. There is still so much stigma around mental health and it’s a privilege to be able to visit with people who might not be feeling their best and help give them a little boost. It really is an honour."
To learn more about volunteering at St. Joseph’s or how to fill out an application, visit our Volunteer Services page.