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Benny brings smiles to residents of Providence Health Care

They wait impatiently for their turn. As he makes his way to each of his many fans one thing is clear. He makes them feel special.


Benny the dog is one of the most popular volunteers at Providence Health Care.

Who is this lothario that has captured the heart of so many? It’s not the latest Hollywood heartthrob but one of the most popular volunteers at the Sisters of Providence. And he’s not even human.

Benny (aka Benny the dog) with the assistance of his very human compadre, Providence Associate Judy Collins, makes regular visits to Providence Health Care. His mission is simple. Make them smile.

It’s quite evident as the residents each take turns holding, petting and playing with Benny that he is more than succeeding in his quest. Benny seems to possess an innate sense of what each person needs from him and he more than delivers. Most are content to simply hold him on their lap and stroke his soft, white fur. Benny patiently complies and sometimes will reward a lucky resident with a lick of their hand. The rest of the group is laser focused on what Benny is doing, most likely counting the minutes until it is their turn to cuddle with their furry friend.

Benny eventually makes his way to 101-year-old Sister Mary Esther Lane who is waiting for him with a blue blanket. She immediately proceeds to swaddle Benny like a newborn baby. Once, on a prior visit, Judy had mentioned to her that Benny likes to be wrapped in a blanket. Sister Mary Esther, always one to give rather than receive, remembers this. The joy in her face is quite evident as Benny relaxes in her arms surrounded by the soft material.

Eventually Benny makes his way to everyone. It’s now time for a bit of performing for the group. Judy puts him in the center of the floor where he playfully frolics under a blanket.  Then, to everyone’s delight, Benny goes from person to person to accept a treat, usually cheese.

Volunteering does not require special skills or talent. Benny and Judy are the perfect example of how seemingly small contributions can make big differences. As his visit concludes, the residents and Benny all seem more relaxed, content and happy. Benny has succeeded.

If you are interested in exploring how you can make a difference by volunteering, contact Sister Rebecca Keller at rkeller@spsmw.org or call 812-535-2878.

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Mary Riley

Mary Riley

Mary Riley is director of operations for White Violet Center for Eco-Justice, a ministry of the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Prior to her current role, she served as the marketing manager for some ministries of the Sisters of Providence including White Violet Center for Eco-Justice and the Volunteer Services.

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