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Cheer cart helping spread good will throughout Via Christi Hospital St. Francis

Volunteer cheer cart

Via Christi Volunteers, Partners in Caring has created a unique way to reach out to patients, families and associates at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis.

A cheer cart staffed by volunteers now makes Thursday and Friday morning rounds, featuring candy bars, cold pop, stuffed animals, puzzle books and other small gift items. The cart, an extension of the hospital’s gift shop, caters to family members who often spend lots of time in waiting rooms while their loved ones are hospitalized.

The idea for the cart came last March when Cyndi Martin, director of Volunteer Services for Via Christi’s Wichita hospitals, shared at a volunteer board meeting about how she missed the roaming snack cart that traveled around the hospital in the 1970s.

“I thought it was a great service to families and associates and thought it would be really nice to bring that back,” Martin says.

The volunteers found an unused luggage cart and Ann Blick, coordinator of the St. Francis Flower and Gift Shop, and her husband, Andy, worked to transform it into a cheer cart. Andy added a roof, shelves to display items and even a cabinet for a pop cooler.

Once the cart was finished in May, Martin recruited volunteers to introduce the cart to patients and families: Carolyn Johnson, Mary Lou Rawson, and Stephanie Shaffer.

“The three ladies were all patient visitors and were a little concerned that they wouldn’t have an opportunity to engage with patients and families while working with the cheer cart,” Martin says. “But every one of them has decided that the cheer cart doesn’t take away from that experience. It actually adds an opportunity for them, not to sell product, but for them to really be there for the families and to connect with them.”

Says Carolyn: “We touch so many people’s hearts and souls when we meet them on our rounds. When you leave for the day, you realize your heart has been blessed time and time again.”

Since the launch, two more volunteers, Linda Johnson and Karon Mitchell, were added to the rotation; they now round with the cart on Friday mornings.

The cart travels a set path starting on the third floor where it visits the surgery, Trauma/Surgical Intensive Care Unit, Burn Center and Neurocritical Care waiting rooms. It then travels to the Cancer Institute on the 7th floor, and makes another stop back at the surgery waiting room on the third floor. While initially created to serve patients and families, associates have also embraced the cart as it can be difficult for them to leave their units during busy times.

The funds raised by the cheer cart support hospital programs and services through the Via Christi, Partners in Caring program.

Martin is thrilled to see the cheer cart living up to its name by spreading happiness and fellowship throughout the hospital.

“It’s built community not only for the patients and families, but for the associates as well,” she says. “It’s another way we can serve others and help them when they need it most.”