Hospital volunteer who recovered from lower body paralysis spreads cheer to patients and staff

Pete Wright shares how volunteering at Sentara RMH has helped keep a positive outlook on life. (SOURCE: WHSV)
Published: Nov. 21, 2023 at 12:29 PM MST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV/Gray News) - Making a trip to the hospital can be a scary experience for a lot of people, but Pete Wright has devoted his time to showing others that there is always something to smile about.

Wright has been volunteering at Sentara RMH for more than 16 years. He said he’s never had a bad day, and each week he helps at least one other person have a better day.

“There’s nowhere that I go that I can’t get a smile,” Wright said.

Every Wednesday, Wright can be found riding through the halls of Sentara RMH looking to brighten someone’s day.

“To make people happy, to make ‘em smile and to help where I can, when I can, with what I have. That’s my goal in life, to help others,” Wright said.

Over the years he’s added items to his cart and has worn several different costumes, but his go-to is his Cat in the Hat outfit.

“Sometimes I think I’ve over did it. I get a lot of comments of the animals and things that I have,” Wright said.

However, Wright said he loves it and so do the people he meets. He said the interactions he has with others are more valuable than any paycheck.

“I’ve had some people say, ‘Do you get paid?’ And I say, ‘I sure do, but it’s not in money,’” he said.

Wright started volunteering in 2004 after his wife passed away and a total knee replacement forced him into an early retirement.

“They got me to volunteering in the east side and the west side of the old hospital transporting patients to and fro across the hospital to the cancer center and back and everything, and I just loved it,” Wright said.

In 2017, when a slipped disc paralyzed him from the waist down, volunteering was one thing that kept him going and got him walking again.

“The only thing that was on my mind while I was doing that rehab and going through that was, ‘How am I going to do this in the hospital?’ and, ‘How am I going to go to church?’” Wright said.

Even through the difficult times in his life, Wright noted how volunteering at Sentara RMH taught him you can find joy in even the smallest things.

“Life goes on, and there are so many things, but there’s so many good things, too. A lot of times we don’t recognize the good things enough,” Wright said.

He hopes he can help make the world a better place one smile at a time.

“No one person can help everyone, but one person can help someone,” Wright said.

Wright hopes to continue volunteering at Sentara RMH for as long as he can. He has no plans to slow down any time soon.