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Volunteers help couple celebrate 64 years of marriage

February 21, 2019

February 20, 2019, was a dreary, cold day for most everyone else, but for one patient and his wife, it was a day of warm, sunny memories.  James Robert Vann was not getting ready for his wedding day as he had done this same day 64 years ago.  Instead, he was spending time as a patient at Sampson Regional Medical Center.  Although he would gladly wish to be spending this day in a sunny location, he was just as happy to have his wife by his side. 

As a member of the Dunn Clowns, Sudan Temple, A.A.O.N.M.S., and the South Eastern, South Atlantic and International Clown Association, he’d had many opportunities to bring joy and help to those in need.  Helen Vann, James’ wife, recalls fond memories of her husband playing “Robin” the sad clown.  “He may have had a sad face painted on the outside, but inside he was smiling to see the joy and laughter that it brought to the kids’ faces,” recalled Helen.  Over his years of service, he along with other Sudan members, have helped many children requiring medical assistance, so to him helping others just comes naturally.  

The Vanns shared this story with Judy Naylor, Director of Volunteer Services for Sampson Regional Medical Center.  “As part of our hospital volunteer program, we round on our patients to see if there are any needs that we could assist with.  This day a request for coffee and a blanket brought an even greater story,” shared Naylor.  With the presentation of the blanket, a story is shared on the random act of kindness of one Midway High School Beta Club member, Abby Baggett.  Baggett made it her personal goal to collect and donate 100 blankets to the hospital to be distributed to patients.

Each blanket has a tag that reads:  No act of KINDNESS no matter how small is ever wasted - Aesop.  “This random act of kindness from one individual has gone on to bless many patients and their family members as they have received care at Sampson Regional,” explained Naylor.  Blankets are distributed to any patients who request an additional blanket, children who are hospitalized, and patients celebrating a birthday during their stay.  “We want each patient’s stay to be a happy experience,” added Naylor. 

With the presentation of the blanket, it brought tears to Mrs. Vann’s eyes.  Such a simple gesture can spark so many emotions and memories.  Recalling her own experience as a former Beta member she had great pride in sharing that she was able to use her own Midway Beta Club pin from years ago to pin on her granddaughter at her Beta Club induction ceremony.  As her story continued, she also shared that they too were celebrating a milestone that day -- their 64th wedding anniversary -- so the presentation of the blankets was even more special. 

When asked what the secret is to a long happy marriage, Mrs. Vann responded, “Patience and understanding. With a long successful marriage, you go through seasons and with each new season you must be willing to change.”  Mr. Vann grinned with a half-smile and replied with persistence, “I asked her for seven years before she ever said yes!”  Although his feet were cold this 20th day of February in 2019, he said his feet were hot the day of the wedding, “I didn’t have cold feet 64 years ago; I had hot feet!  I wanted to be married before she changed her mind,” declared Mr. Vann.

Volunteers presented the Vanns with a special card signed by the staff, cake, and balloons to celebrate their special day.  “Although we are not their real family, we celebrated like family and we hope we made this day extra special for them,” stated Naylor.

What seemed to be a simple gesture of Sampson Regional’s volunteer staff, turned into a story of love and giving that has spanned many years.  “At the start of my day, my intention was to check in on a family member of a patient that had a need for coffee, but I got so much more in return.  I learned our café staff not only brought a fresh pot of coffee, but hand delivered a cup especially to her.  It makes me proud that I work with such caring staff at SampsonRMC,” said Naylor. 

A random gift shared with a patient touched their hearts and their story of love and patience will forever be remembered by all.

If you are interested in sharing your time and talents or would like to make a donation to support Volunteer Services at Sampson Regional Medical Center, please contact Judy Naylor, Director of Volunteer Services, at 910-592-8511 ext. 8563.