Veterans Day is celebrated each year on Nov. 11, and it's a time to honor and thank the many members of the United States armed forces who have served our country. This year at University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and UPMC CancerCenter, we honored a different kind of veteran - our volunteers - at the 25th annual volunteer appreciation luncheon. About 100 volunteers, staff and leaders joined together in the Herberman Conference Center to recognize the extraordinary impact of 25 years of volunteerism across UPCI and the Hillman Cancer Center building. Hosted by Director for Volunteers Services Danielle Scott and her staff, it truly was a celebration of selflessness and the contributions made to improve the well-being of cancer patients everywhere.
Volunteers are indeed the glue that holds together so many parts of our cancer enterprise. They are the first persons that many new patients encounter–as a friendly and reassuring voice via a phone call on the night before a patient makes their first visit or as a green-coated greeter stationed at the entrance to the Hillman Cancer Center to make sure that patients are steered seamlessly to their first appointment. They deliver meals to patients throughout the treatment day and make conversation with anxious families. Volunteers provide that extra element of comfort. Darvina Emmerich, founder and president of The Wrapped in Love Foundation, has provided more than 1,000 fleece blankets to patients to warm them during their hours in the infusion chairs. And our volunteer four-footed, tail-wagging therapy dogs - with their human escorts - bring a smile to everyone they see–patients, families and staff members alike!
Volunteers are also the lifeblood of the research pavilion of the Hillman Cancer Center. Students at all levels spend countless hours assisting in research projects across the labs, advancing projects in DNA repair, cancer-causing viruses, cancer immunology and so much more. Each summer dozens of high school students in our UPCI Academy spread out across UPCI to serve in our cancer research labs, advancing our insights from science ever closer to patients and learning about the life of a biomedical researcher along the way.
Veteran's Day arose from Armistice Day, the day that brought an end to World War I and ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month nearly 100 years ago. Sadly, we are far from the end of our fight against cancer and we will continue to rely on the efforts of our volunteers while we work toward a future without cancer. But in the meantime, we can take the spirit of another November holiday, Thanksgiving, to give thanks to each and every volunteer who is working with us to achieve that goal. Thank you for 25 years of service–we look forward to many more!