Being a comfort to patients and their families
The day before the end of 2021, Janice and Ernie Holmes made their final exit from Children's Health through a tunnel of cheering team members, waving farewell signs and shiny red balloons.
After decades of service, the couple was retiring from volunteering.
Combined, the duo amassed more than 26,000 hours of volunteer work at Children's Medical Center Dallas, the flagship hospital of Children's Health.
A volunteer for 53 years, Janice visited the hospital several times a week. She brought patients stuffed animals after surgeries. She pushed stretchers and cleaned beds. She sewed blankets for children and made banners for the chapel.
The daughter of a physician, Janice grew up around hospitals. For her, these buildings filled with patients, their families, doctors and nurses weren't scary places.
And when her 5-year-old daughter, Laurie, passed away from leukemia at Children's Health in 1968, the hospital was where she turned for comfort, signing up a few months later to begin her decades-long volunteer run. Years later, when Ernie retired from his professional career, Janice signed him up to volunteer alongside her.
"Starting with the worst experience in our lives, Children's Health became a lifeline - a reason to keep going," Janice wrote in her memoir.
The couple often shared stories of their volunteer work with others, inspiring friends and family to join them in volunteering at Children's Health and to enter the medical profession.
In 2015, one of their sons and daughters-in-law, Steven and Anne Holmes, gave $250,000 to Children's Health to establish the Janice and Ernie Holmes Endowment for Child Life in Memory of Laura Ellen Holmes.
"We miss Laurie every day. She was a fun, 5-year-old kid who liked to go to the movies and happened to get sick," said Steven, who was 9 years old when Laurie passed away.
"When making a gift to Children's Health, we wanted to do something that was meaningful and would honor Laurie and my parents. And because of the history my parents and I had at Children's Health, the institution is particularly special to us," said Steven, adding that their children - now adults - used to join Janice in wrapping presents for patient families for the holidays. And several years ago, Anne was inspired to sign up to become a volunteer, too.
"Plus, the staff at Children's Health are amazing, and it's important to know that the people who work there care the way they do about the patients they treat," Steven said.
The Holmes' generous gift provides funds for the Child Life department, an essential offering in the hospital that receives no external support aside from philanthropy. Team members in the department- which include child life specialists, child life assistants and music therapists- work alongside medical staff to ensure a positive hospital experience for Children's Health patients and families.
"Never did I think back in 1968 that Children's Health would become such an important part of my life and the life of my family," Janice said. "I started here as a grieving mother and Children's Health almost literally saved my life. What a great feeling it is to have been a part of this wonderful, amazing place."