Veterans helping veterans: Volunteers visit fellow service members during hospital stay

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PAINESVILLE, Ohio - A local hospital is offering a unique program where veterans can visit other veterans who are in the hospital to help them through their stay.

Jay McDonald met 86-year-old Wally Sedgwick just a little while ago, but now they've become pretty good friends.

McDonald and Sedgwick have little in common age wise, but one thing unites them: They both served with pride in the United States Navy.

McDonald volunteers at TriPoint Medical Center and visits veterans one to two times a week. He just sits back with the veterans and engages in conversation. Sometimes discussion will be about their time in the service, other times it'll be about unrelated topics.

McDonald says just sitting back and talking to someone who served in the military, no matter what branch they served in, makes a stay in the hospital a lot easier.

"We all speak the same language when it comes to just talking to each other and having that reliability because they served and whether they served for a year or 20 years, it doesn't matter. They wore a uniform and served to protect," McDonald explained.

"The first time they came in it made me feel really good. The second time they came in it made me feel even better. We had a certain connection right away " Sedgwick said.

However, McDonald and the other veteran volunteers don't just bring conversation to their visits.  They also provide the patients with a goody bag that includes a bunch of things ranging from veteran benefit information, flags, and a warm lap blanket.

The blankets are all handmade.  They are in patriotic colors and were knitted or crocheted by dozens of volunteers.

McDonald says these gifts are an acknowledgement of service and a way to say thanks.

"I could never go visit a veteran and have that same connection that the men have together. And, they love it. Every volunteer that I have comes back with more and more stories about how they've connected with our patients,"  Lake Health Volunteer Services Director Loretta Kruse said.

Since the program began, less than a year ago, Lake Health has given out more than 1,200 goody bags and has visited hundreds of veterans who have come through their doors.

In just eleven months, TriPoint Medical Center has given out more than 1,000 hand made blankets, but they can always use more help.

If you would like to knit or crochet a blanket for a veteran in the hospital you can contact Lake Health Volunteer Services at (440) 354-1665 or by email at loretta.kruse@lakehealth.org.

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