Maggie and Dandy Visit VA Medical Center
August 31, 2009
On an overcast and almost chilly Monday morning on the last day of August 2009, two little ponies came into the Wilmington, Delaware VA Medical Center with a huge dose of sunshine. Maggie and Dandy, two Shetland ponies from Personal Ponies of Delaware (http://www.personalponies-de.org/Meet-our-Ponies.php), brought their escorts Patty and Samantha Draper to visit some of the medical center’s patients.
Patty Draper, the Delaware State Director of Personal Ponies, Ltd., and her daughter Samantha (“Sam”) parked their truck and trailer in the rear parking lot and brought the ponies up the elevators to the executive floor for a briefing about therapeutic ponies and to meet with the facility’s leadership team.
Within minutes, staff members were peeking into the conference room to see if it was true, and were ponies really in the hospital, and here in our conference room? What they saw was Chuck Dorman, the Medical Center Director sitting at the head of the table with Maggie at his side while he scratched her ears while Dandy cruised through the room making new friends amongst the rest of the staff.
Therapeutic horses, and specifically the Shetland ponies are described by Personal Ponies Ltd. as “…a very special breed.” “These ponies are docile and kind, intelligent, sensitive, and capable of doing hard work.” “Because our ponies are often very small (as small as 30") and seldom very tall at all (usually not more than 39"), they are the ideal pony to do the work we ask of them.”
Personal Ponies is an all-volunteer organization, relying on public donations and support. Their services have been recognized by a number of local organizations, including local 4H clubs and the A.I. DuPont Children’s Hospital.
The first order of business after meeting the leadership team was getting the official photo identification cards made. Maggie and Dandy are of course, volunteering their time to the VA Medical Center; and they were very happy to have their pictures taken and receive their official VA Volunteer IDs, which they proudly wore during their visit.
Maggie and Dandy generated more than a few wide-eyed responses from visitors, staff and other patients as they made their way through the main hospital. “Oh my gosh, there’s horses on the elevator!” cried one nurse when the doors opened up on one floor on their way to the ground floor. A visiting family couldn’t believe their eyes when they turned the corner in a walkway and saw two ponies walking down the hall just as calmly as they’d been there all day long.
After the official paperwork was completed the ponies headed down to the Medical Center’s Community Living Center (CLC), formerly known as the Nursing Home Care Unit. “I never would’ve imagined!” said Willard Ransom, a CLC resident after meeting Dandy. Mitchell Slivinski, another CLC resident asked, “I’d love to see them come back, they will come back, won’t they?”
Charles Stuart’s eyes opened wide when he saw Maggie and Dandy enter the CLC’s main activity room. “I’m 73 years old now, but when I was a young man, from five years old til I was almost sixteen, I used to exercise thoroughbreds off of Lincoln Street in Little Italy in Wilmington”, he said. Mr. Stuart’s face reflected not just surprise at seeing a horse again, but was soon replaced by a quiet joy as he took the pony’s lead rope in his experienced hands and led Maggie around the CLC in his wheelchair. “Horses know when they meet a human who knows horses”, said Patty Draper. Maggie knew she was in capable hands too, and stood quietly at his side.
Other CLC residents’ faces changed almost instantly when they ponies came into their rooms, or around the corner of a hallway. “I’ve never been around horses, but she’s just so cute!” said Stephen Sleeper. Another resident, Mr. Bruce Spencer was making sure he didn’t miss the excitement either. “I heard there were ponies, so I raced down the halls in my wheelchair, just to see them”, he said.
Patty Draper was also touched by the experience. “One patient, who the staff told me is usually very quiet and reticent, spoke directly to the pony, and then to me”, she said. With just the hint of a tear in her eye, she said “This is why we do what we do”. At the end of their visit, Maggie and Dandy got back on their trailer, looking forward to their meal of ground flax and steamed crimped oats, their regular diet, waiting for them at home. By the time they left, the cloudy skies had cleared and the sun was shining, inside and outside. It won’t be soon enough before they’re back for their next visit.
VA Hosts Inspirational Golf Clinic for Amputees
August 18, 2009
VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System hosted a First Swing Amputee Golf Clinic on Tuesday August 18, 2009 at Scally’s Golf Center in Moon Township, Pa. Nine Amputee Veterans attended the free clinic and were assisted by four PGA professionals. The PGA professionals worked with the Veterans to teach basic skills to first-time golfers and assist experienced golfers in perfecting their current skills.
Michael Moreland, VISN 4 Network Director, Dr. David Macpherson, VISN 4 Chief Medical Officer, and John Gennaro, Associate Director for Site Management at VAPHS, attended the Golf clinic and gave remarks.
Philadelphia Forum Focuses on Veterans' Issues
August 17, 2009
Senator Arlen Specter (PA) and Secretary Eric Shinseki participated in a Veterans Forum Monday, August 17, at Drexel University in Philadelphia. The event attracted more than 200 attendees and was the first of two Veterans town halls held the same day in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania - the second coming some three hours later and 300 miles away in Pittsburgh. The forum included VA health care, disability and retirement benefits, and education. Drexel University also held a Veterans educational fair, with information for prospective students about the post-9/11 GI Bill and Yellow Ribbon program.
Lowe's Heroes Community Service Project
August 4, 2009
Lowe’s employees volunteered their time and skills to begin several outside projects at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System’s Heinz Division as a part of the Lowe’s community project initiative, Lowe’s Heroes.
The projects planned include installation of a volleyball court and horseshoe pit at the Veterans Recovery Center, all new landscaping for the Masonic Pavilion area and all new landscaping for two pavilion areas in the dementia unit. The Lowe’s employees will be working at the Heinz Division throughout August to complete the projects.
Iron Horse Helpers Ride For Veterans
August 1, 2009
A group of approximately 2,000 motorcycles and classic cars visited the Lebanon VA Medical Center to raise money for the hospital. Many service organizations’ motorcycle clubs participated in the event as well and even offer rides to a few of the Veterans. The ride was organized by Mr. Barry Jacobs, Iron Horse Helpers, and General Scott Wagner, Adjutant General, Ft. Indiantown Gap. Together, these groups raised $13,500 for the VA hospital.