Fifty years, 1 million hours: Wolfson Children’s Hospital Auxiliary celebrates half-century of service

From hospital greeters to Pet Therapy handlers, volunteers provide patients, families and team members with support and smiles.

Exactly 50 years after a group of people with a shared vision of bringing comfort and cheer to hospitalized children and families met for the first time, current Wolfson Children’s Hospital leadership and team members gathered to celebrate their enduring legacy. On Tuesday, June 13, the Wolfson Children’s Hospital Auxiliary marked 50 years of volunteer service to patients, families, visitors and team members.

Since its founding by Eunice Gooding on June 13, 1973, the Wolfson Children’s Hospital Auxiliary has grown from five services to 17, ranging from pet therapy to providing comfort amenities to patients and families. Since its inception, members of the Auxiliary have volunteered more than 1 million hours. In the last decade alone, Auxiliary volunteers have devoted nearly 200,000 hours of service to Wolfson Children’s, a value of over $4.5 million.

The Auxiliary has also donated more than $1 million and funded a $500,000 Baptist Foundation endowment to provide critical care equipment, advanced technology, amenities for patient rooms, wheelchairs to transport patients and more.

“The vision the founding members of the Wolfson Children’s Hospital Auxiliary had half a century ago still rings true today,” said Allegra Jaros, MBA, president of Wolfson Children’s Hospital. “Auxiliary volunteers have touched the lives of countless patients and team members, and we’re grateful for their friendly and compassionate service.”

Though volunteers are traditionally thought of as helping patients, families and visitors to Wolfson Children’s, Auxiliary members also assist and support team members. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Auxiliary wrote cards to front-line caregivers, hung banners of support in the hospital, and supplied refreshments for those working long hours in vaccination clinics.

“The Wolfson Children’s Hospital Auxiliary was created 50 years ago to assist the hospital with meeting the needs of the patients, families and staff,” said Jeannie Poon, director of Volunteer Services for Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville and Wolfson Children’s Hospital. “They are a huge blessing in that they stand in the gap and help with hours and resources that are needed for our team members to provide care for the patients we serve. I’m so thrilled that we have this special day to celebrate all that the Wolfson Children’s Hospital Auxiliary means to our organization and all that our Auxilians mean to us and those they encounter within our four walls. It takes special people to share their hearts with others, our volunteers and their impact truly are timeless!”

Auxiliary services at Wolfson Children’s Hospital include, in part:

• Greeting patients and families arriving at Wolfson Children’s and escorting them to their room or destination.
• Participating in bedside activities with patients like crafts, puzzles and games.
• Responding to basic requests from patients for blankets, ice or water.
• Hosting and giving tours to community groups.
• Providing patients with Pet Therapy.
• Entertaining children and families with Goofieatrics, a troop of clowns and magicians.
• Selling Wolfson Children’s-branded items, with proceeds benefiting the hospital.
• Assisting team members throughout Wolfson Children’s.
• Dressing as Wolfson Children’s mascot, Wolfie, visiting patients and attending community events.
• Providing patients with gifts, snacks and other needs.
Currently, there are more than 100 volunteers in the Wolfson Children’s Auxiliary.