Ky. woman hopes to bring smiles to children's faces at Norton Children's Hospital

Met the volunteer who has been helping at Norton Children's Hospital for the past 10 years!

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- For the past ten years, Barbara Bernard has been a frequent visitor at Norton Children's Hospital. She isn't a doctor, nurse, or medical practitioner. Her job is to find a way to make the children and families as comfortable as possible.

"Maybe a little smile. It could be crayons. It could be simple things," Bernard said. "If it's nothing but just come and hanging out and playing toys with them for a little bit, anything you can do to keep it normal as it can be."

For Bernard, she first started coming to Norton like many of the parents she has helped. Fifteen years earlier, her son, then 14-years-old, had a seizure. Doctors discovered a tumor on his brain. 

"Very scary. Very scared," she said. "There's no words to express that other than being very scared." 

Bernard said she still remembers the feeling of helplessness as her son was treated at the children's hospital, but it was through that tough time spent within the walls of the ward when she realized she had a chance to help others who are going through the same experience. 

"When you're walking around the hospital and Barb's here, you're guaranteed to be met with a smile," Taryn Johnson, Norton Children's Hospital's child life coordinator, said.

In the past ten years, Bernard has spent more than 600 days volunteering, never turning down a chance to brighten a child's day. 

"She's not afraid to act silly and goof around if that's what the child needs to smile," Johnson said. "She has never met a stranger. If you're in the elevator with her, you're guaranteed to have a conversation." 

"A girl loved to play dress up," Bernard said. "Well dolls and doll accessories are a little hard to come by sometimes, so I ended up taking felt and pipe cleaners and we made a whole wedding attire for her."

Bernard claims her role is very small, but ask the hospital staff, the families that she has helped over the years and even her own son, now 29, whose illness led her to a decade of servitude, and they all have a common message.

"He's very proud. He makes it known he's very proud of what I do," Bernard said. "Just knowing that you can maybe help someone in a small way."

And ten years later, she has no plans of slowing down.

"Not unless they kick me out!" she said.

According to Norton Children's Hospital, there are many volunteer opportunities at the hospital, but the hospital is in need of volunteers specifically for the upcoming Festival of Trees and Lights event, which benefits Norton Children's Hospital's NICU. The event runs from Nov. 10-12.

Anyone interested in volunteering for the event can contact Jennifer Clark at jennifer.clark3@nortonhealthcare.org or by phone at 502-629-8159.

© 2017 WHAS-TV


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