In the Company of Cuddlers

Pat Rice and Claire Fitzgerald are husband and wife psychologists who have dedicated their time as volunteers at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford for more than 16 years. After receiving excellent care many years ago for her 3-month-old son at what was then the Children’s Hospital at Stanford, Fitzgerald promised she would return as a volunteer to give back to others what the hospital staff had given to her.

Fitzgerald began her volunteering career in the Office of Patient Experience and continues today. Recognizing the importance of the early stages of life, she joined the Baby Cuddler program and today trains new cuddler volunteers. “It has been a great honor,” she said. 

Fitzgerald is a recent recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award, dedicating more than 4,000 volunteer hours. Wanting to give back to the community, Rice aspired to do something that made a positive difference in people’s lives. Embarking on a new endeavor, he joined his wife in the Baby Cuddler program and today promises to continue devoting his time as long as he can. “It’s become an integral part of our life and continues to enrich us every time we volunteer and spend time in this culture of caring,” he says. 

Fitzgerald and Rice have laid the groundwork for a cuddling program in Jerusalem, hoping that it will develop in the near future and be shared in other parts of the world. “We really do believe in the nurturing power of hugs.”