How two Helen Henderson Care Centre volunteers are replacing loneliness with laughter

One of the beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and be understood.

It is a truth that comes naturally to a pair of volunteers at Helen Henderson Care Centre.

Laughing as they complete each other’s sentences, Stephen Kincaid and Chris Russell are friends who bring-out the best in each other and the people around them.

Talking from the comfort of the h
ome’s memory-care ward, the men look fondly at the residents who receive dedicated nursing care.

“What you’re doing is making them forget where they are and making them feel where they could be,” says Steve about why he and Chris voluntarily perform skits at the retirement/long-term care home two to four times a month. 

“They love when we do this,” says Steve with a smile.

“We love doing it too,” adds Chris.

Friends for years, the men have a combined volunteer service at Helen Henderson Care Centre of more than 10 years.

Together, they work to con
nect with people through laughter and song. “We get them clapping their hands and singing,” says Chris. “It’s great.” 

Entertainers without formal training, the men met while working as custodians at Queen’s University.
Chris invited Steve to perform with him in shows built around comedy and music.

“People come-in, play and then leave,” says Steve, 63. “We want to give them a little more than that. We want to entertain them.”

Drawing from popular television shows and movies, the men go from Beverly Hillbillies, Gilligan’s Island, Buddy Holly and the Soggy Bottom Boys to Sonny & Cher, Blues Brothers and Simon & Garfunkel.

“We dance and just act crazy,” says Chris, 56.

Building on themes and adding their own ideas, the men create costumes, backdrops and props.

“We just come up with these ideas and try to make something of it,” says Chris. “We go all out. We really try to do as much as we can. We also try to cover a wide range of decades because you never know what someone will like.”

Their motives for volunteering in the home are altruistic. 

“We do it because we love these guys and we want to do it. It’s great just to be appreciated. That’s the best reward,” says Chris.

“We try to interact as much as we can,” adds Steve who enjoys the clapping and smiles.
Aware some residents aren’t blessed with regular visits from family or friends, the men work to replace loneliness with laughter. 

“To us, every one of those lives is valuable,” says Steve. “They all have stories and sometimes people forget about that. It’s important to remember people and their contribution to society. It’s only right that people should do something for them.”

Physically exhausted after their two-hour show that requires resources such as rehearsal time and theatrical material, the men give freely of their talent.

“We’re going to do this as long as possible. I can’t just not do it,” says Chris.

“We ALWAYS have a good time,” Steve adds. “We never look at it as anything other than entertainment for people. They need that. It makes them feel good and we feel good.”

Activity Director Donna Joudoin is the duo’s biggest fan. 

“They give so much and they’re a great example of people who give the best of themselves,” she says. “They’re valued volunteers and we feel fortunate to have their time, talent and dedication.”

Chris laughs as he recalls the time Steve was slapped on the cheek for retrieving a prop from the floor that a female resident thought belonged to her. 

“That was funny,” Chris chuckles kind-heartedly about his friend’s misfortune.

Sincere in their joy for life, the men spread their goodwill with reckless abandon.

“It is important people know residents are enjoying their day,” says Steve. “That’s the kind of stuff that makes them (residents) live longer.”