Tunnell Cancer Center welcomes volunteers

December 24, 2017

At Beebe Healthcare, the mission of the Robert & Eolyne Tunnell Cancer Center is to provide hope and a cure for each patient who walks through the doors. Physicians, nurses, social workers, counselors, staff are all part of the multidisciplinary approach to treating cancer patients as individuals.

Included in the long list of caregivers are the volunteers.

"Volunteers are critical to what we do," says Executive Director Barry Hamp. "We have about 30 to 35 volunteers who work here alongside our team, and truthfully, we could find meaningful work for about 30 more."

Volunteers may work directly with the patients, aiding with infusions and running wheelchairs down a long hallway from the infusion center to the laboratory. Other volunteers customize important patient binders, which every patient needs to read about their illness, since so much information is new and difficult to process.

About a year ago, Hamp came out of retirement to accept an interim position as executive director before accepting the title.

"I was living a comfortable, retired lifestyle in Virginia Beach with my wife and grandkids, and doing some volunteer work when I got the interim job."

"After I met the people who work here and the patients themselves, they inspired me to come back. Now I realize that in retirement there wasn't enough of a mental challenge for me. I really enjoy being here."

At the time Hamp took the helm, Rehoboth resident Grant V. Kingswell began undergoing chemo treatment down the hall from Hamp's office. One day he noticed what looked to be a hair salon sitting empty.

"The nurse explained that they hadn't yet hired anyone to work there. You do now!" recounts Grant, who was a salon owner in Pennsylvania for nearly 55 years.

Grant had been involved in one of the very first Look Good, Feel Better programs sponsored by the American Cancer Society in Pennsylvania.

He still recalls his first wig that he styled for a 10-year-old girl. "I gave her pigtails," he beams.

Grant immediately volunteered to become the stylist at Tunnell and has been working there for over a year now.

"Women will come in sad and say, 'Just look at me.' Then I say, 'It will be OK. How about a new look? Now's your chance!' When they ask how much their wigs will cost, I answer, 'Can you afford a hug?'"

Patient Mary Furst remembers seeing a wig for the first time and wondering how it would look on her.

"He picked out one I would never have tried, and I love it. We hugged!"

About 25 to 30 women participate in the free wig program each year.

The Tunnell center is serving about 900 new cancer patients each year who are diagnosed with multiple types such as breast, lung, prostate and colon cancer. Beebe has plans to open a second Tunnell cancer facility in Millville.

If you would like to volunteer to work at Tunnell, the staff invites you to call them. They will provide training. Please contact Barry Hamp or Judith Ramirez at 302-645-3310.