Chuck Kavalec

May 17th, 2020

101-year-old volunteer

Chuck Kavalec
UCHealth Harmony Campus

 

Chuck Kavalec offers kindhearted words and over 100 years of wisdom to nervous patients.

“What I try to do is loosen them up, to get their mind out of what they’re going to,” he said. “You don’t talk about anything in the hospital or how you are – you talk about just other things, even if it’s just the weather.”

At 101 years old, he’s a master of small talk. When volunteering in radiology at UCHealth Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, he likes to compliment patients’ names and ask friendly questions while providing an escort to MRIs and other procedures known to provoke anxiety.

“The older people are the ones that I like to talk to, because I’ve been through most of the things they’re going through,” Kavalec said, adding that he emphasizes to patients to think positive and not dwell on the past. “When you worry, it hurts you mentally, physically, and you can’t do anything about it.”

He also volunteers at Harmony Campus, helping people find their way – whether they’re looking for a doctor’s office or their parked car. He’s volunteered for 25 years, starting in January 1995, in positions such as the gift shop, thrift shop and flower delivery.

As a flower deliverer, he would ask patients if they’d like him to read the message on the card.

“And I remember this one lady, I started to go out the door, she said, ‘Would you do me a favor?’ And I said, ‘Yes, if I can,’” Kavalec said. “She said, ‘I’m from out of town. I don’t have any friends or relations here in town. Would you mind spending 10 minutes and visiting with me?’”

“You wouldn’t think that somebody gets so lonesome being in the hospital in a strange town where they’re not from. She just wanted to visit.”

Lori Dykstra, volunteer services manager at PVH, said Kavalec’s small talk “can be so helpful for the patient if they are stressed or nervous.”

“Chuck is very dedicated to the service he provides as a volunteer. He always has a smile on his face, and his positive outlook on life is inspiring,” she said. “If you ask him how his day is, he responds the same way every time, ‘Never had a bad one.’”

Kavalec has no plans to retire from his twice-per-week shifts.

“Volunteering and being associated with people helps me as much as it does them,” he said. “You’ve got to give something back to the community. You can’t be selfish.”

He said keys to longevity are making sure you “have something to do all the time” and maintaining a strong network of friends. He also walks a mile per day.

“I eat what I want, and I always have,” he said, adding that he puts regular —not organic—mustard on his hot dogs. “I’m not an organic person. The trouble with organic is it doesn’t have any flavor.”
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About the author

Robert Allen loves meeting new people and learning their stories, and he's continually inspired by the patients, staff and providers he meets at UCHealth.

A journalist for 12 years, he joined UCHealth after reporting and editing at the Detroit Free Press. He is the author of Fading Ads of Detroit, a book exploring connections between classic Detroit brands — from Carhartt to Mac-O-Lac Paints to the Detroit Tigers — found on ghost signs and the personal histories of Detroit residents. He previously reported for the Fort Collins Coloradoan, Summit Daily News and Montrose Daily Press.

His outdoor adventures include scrambling summits, hunting powder stashes via snowboard and taking a three-week winter rafting trip down the Grand Canyon. The Oklahoma State University graduate lives in Fort Collins with his wife, Rachel, and their obstinate pug, Darla.