A steady stream of customers stop by the Craig Hospital Gift Shop, picking out shirts, snacks, soda.
Most also are there to say hello to cashier Matt Doty — one of Craig’s longest-serving volunteers.
“Many staff stop in for some laughter therapy provided by Matt,” says Volunteer Manager Jill Stelley Virden. “He is a committed, devoted and compassionate volunteer who seeks to put a smile on the faces of everyone who comes in.”
Doty started volunteering at Craig on Sept. 22, 1995. Since, Stelley Virden says, he’s donated an astonishing 12,911 hours to the hospital where he once was a patient.
In 1989 Doty was working at a natural gas well when a blast left him with a traumatic brain injury and a recovery that would take years.
“Before my accident I would never have worked for nothing. It would have been absurd,” says Doty. But when an occupational therapist recommended he volunteer at Craig, he did. And never left.
“It helped me gain communication skills,” says Doty, who now volunteers half-day shifts three times a week. “You remember the things you learned in therapy. ‘Open your mouth. Speak slowly,’” he says with exaggerated precision, stifling a chuckle.
“They didn’t teach you to close it!” quips Pat Hance, who has volunteered with Doty for more than a decade.
Humor is just part of the job, Doty explains. “With everything happening out there, it can be pretty blue otherwise.”
“Matt has set the standard for Craig Hospital volunteers,” Stelley Virden says — all 200 of them, including 160 who work regular weekly volunteer shifts. “Everyone benefits from the interactions.”
Doty agrees. “It’s very much a family organization, and they make me feel a part of that,” he says.
“The volunteers give their time to creating this world-class program,” Stelley Virden adds. “We couldn’t provide the services we do without the extra 200 sets of hands.”
Doty has advice for other Craig patients and alumni: “You need to give while you can. If you want to help someone, get involved!”
Learn more about volunteering at craighospital.org/volunteer.