The AiC Story

Raggedy Ann, Raggedy Andy, volunteers, Simon Fox, Karen Fox

How does one build a program that reliably lifts the spirit and consistently delivers compassion, hope, joy, and encouragement to a patient’s bedside all year round? For the past 30 years, Karen Fox and her all-volunteer Adventures in Caring team have done just this with their Raggedy Ann & Andy visiting program for hospitals and nursing homes.

In their darkest hour, feeling alone, afraid, and in pain, thousands of patients encounter something they never expected: “Hi, it’s Raggedy Ann, would you like a visit?”

So begins the adventure, as a patient invites Raggedy Ann to visit. Little does he know the love, the kindness, the life-affirming appreciation and acceptance that will be given to him – at the exact moment, when he needs it the most. More than just rag dolls, the volunteer Raggedys are support for the soul in illness.

In 1991, Adventures in Caring was the first organization in the Tri-Counties to be recognized by President G. H. W. Bush with his Point of Light Award for outstanding community service.

Doctors began to ask, “How do you train your volunteers so well? Can you teach our people the same skills?”

So Karen and her husband Simon took another step in their adventure. They developed a workshop, wrote a book, and produced videos to pass on their communication skills. Now, these learning tools are used by more than 5,000 organizations nationwide. Hospitals, hospices, churches, charities, and colleges use them to teach staff, students, and volunteers how to communicate with compassion.

30 Years of Caring

Over 190 guests celebrated Adventures in Caring’s Silver Anniversary at a luncheon in March 2009 in Santa Barbara. Coming full circle, Debbie Lupeika, MD, drove from Redding, Calif. to talk about how her experience volunteering as Raggedy Ann shaped her medical career and influences the way she practices medicine today – twenty years later. In addition to her family practice, Dr. Lupeika currently teaches medical residents at Mercy Hospital in Reading and she uses the Adventures in Caring videos to develop in her students the art of compassionate listening.

In the first twenty-five years of service, the Raggedy Ann and Andy volunteers have made one million heart-to-heart visits with patients and their family members. For the next twenty-five years, Adventures in Caring plans to see that number of visits rapidly grow. At the same time, it plans to complete the Adventures in Caring five-phase long-term strategic plan that makes the practice of compassion: 1) visible, 2) teachable, 3) practical, 4) measurable, and 5) replicable throughout the world, in the service of healing.