Volunteer musical trio honoured with OLTCA awards for work with Forest Hill residents

Left to right, Forest Hill volunteer musicians Pat Hennessey, Andrew McWeeny and Gerry Armstrong hold the OLTCA Circle of Excellence awards they were presented with on April 18.

Gerry Armstrong, Andrew McWeeny and Pat Hennessey are not only favourite entertainers at the home, their music helps residents affected by cognitive impairment

Forest Hill on April 18 presented three of its volunteer musicians with Circle of Excellence awards from the Ontario Long Term Care Association (OLTCA) to honour their contributions to residents.

Gerry Armstrong, Andrew McWeeny and Pat Hennessey were led into the Ottawa-area long-term care home’s chapel in the afternoon for a surprise ceremony to pay tribute to the trio and other volunteers.

Forest Hill life enrichment co-ordinator Craig Forrest says Gerry, Andrew and Pat have been valuable assets to the home, and their musical performances have made them fan favourites with residents and staff members.

There’s an interesting story about how the trio got together. After Gerry’s wife, Becky, moved into Forest Hill in 2013, he began bringing his guitar into the home to play for her. In short time, Gerry noticed other residents were enjoying the music. Before long, Gerry was playing for larger groups of residents.

In March 2016, another family member, Andrew McWeeny, was recruited through an ad Gerry placed in the home’s newsletter. Pat then joined Gerry and Andrew, and the musicians have become regular entertainers at the home on Wednesdays.

Much of the work Gerry, Andrew and Pat do is one-to-one visitation with residents affected by cognitive impairment, Craig says.

“They are so devoted and they are fantastic with the residents, and they really do make quite an impact on the residents,” Craig says. “If residents are agitated, the music they play tends to calm them.”

Craig adds that family members will often visit the home when Gerry, Andrew and Pat are there. Family members will often sit with their loved ones while the trio plays, so the entertainers also provide a forum for residents and families to spend quality time together, the LEC says.

April 15-21 is National Volunteer Week 2018. The week is marked by events nationwide that celebrate volunteers and all they do to enrich the lives of others. This year marks the 77th National Volunteer Week.

Anyone interested in volunteering at an OMNI Health Care long-term care home can call 1-705-748-6631 for more information.

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