As a former volunteer Raggedy Ann at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital I am saddened to learn that volunteers are no longer allowed by the Cottage Health System to visit patients as fully costumed Raggedy Anns or Raggedy Andys. It seems that a handful of patients who due to medications or brain injury, thought they were hallucinating when they saw the Raggedys. The non-profit Adventures In Caring organization that trains these volunteers has now redesigned their program, its materials, training and uniforms calling it “First Aid for the Heart and Soul”. But in the words of executive director Simon Fox, “without the Raggedy characters smiles are not as easily generated, hugs are not so frequently requested and the role of anonymous confidante is eliminated”.
The Raggedy Ann patient visitation program (Compassion in Action) was founded in 1985 at Cottage Hospital by Karen Fox. After 26 years of continuous service and over 100,000 patient visits, this program has received national publicity, honors and awards and has spread to other hospitals across the country. What a shame that our hospitals in Santa Barbara have lost the essence of such a caring, compassionate volunteer service because a simpler solution was not put into action.