The gift of companionship  

Kiwanis clubs on opposite coasts help foster a new friendship.

By Wendy Rose Gould

Ruth Weber is 101 years old, a bit of a firecracker and sharp as a tack. Though she’s able to interact with the folks at her residential home, last year she told her daughter, Judy Wigand, that she was feeling a bit lonely. The dilemma: Weber lives in California, and Wigand lives across the country in New York.

“I was determined to find people to come visit her,” says Wigand, a 20-year member of the Kiwanis Club of the Bellmores in Long Island. “As a Kiwanian, I know we are there to help the community. I thought to myself, ‘Let’s check out the local club in Woodland Hills.’ Within 20 minutes, I heard back.” 

The Warren Center-Woodland Hills Kiwanis club was more than happy to make some magic happen. Not only did members respond quickly, but they also offered to have the club’s president, Dominique Cavelier, and her therapy dog, Christmas, pay routine visits to Weber. Now, the three spend time together on a weekly basis. 

“When Christmas and I visit Ruth, she holds Christmas on her lap and gently pets her,” says Cavelier. “We talk about her former family life, her adult children, her experiences as a home economics teacher, her favorite dishes, the pets she had, how our world is doing and so on. She cannot see and we have to speak loudly for her to hear, but her mind is so sharp, and she loves (our visits).”

Wigand refers to this newfound friendship as “the gift of companionship,” adding that it has filled her with joy and a sense of comfort knowing that her mother is being looked after with such kindness.  

“I feel like these visits were an answer to my prayers,” Wigand says. “I felt so helpless being 3,000 miles away from my mom, so for her to have this experience is wonderful.”

And that experience was made possible by a Kiwanis connection that spanned the width of the United States. 

“Every time I have the privilege to touch someone’s life,” Cavelier says, “it makes me realize how we can all help bring a little sunshine to one another.”

This story originally appeared in the December 2021 issue of Kiwanis magazine.

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