During his volunteer hours at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Benjamin Shambon considers himself to be a substitute for the drug store CVS.
As a high school and college student, Shambon volunteered with wounded soldiers, eventually pushing the Care Cart, a convenience trolley that brings necessary and requested items to inpatients, every weekend. Today, he coordinates all Care Cart volunteers.
Often, family members aren’t available on weekends to fulfill patient requests for hygiene or entertainment needs. At those times, the Care Cart steps in.
“The small thing we bring them might be the one thing they’ve wanted all day,” he said. “It’s humbling for me because the feedback from patients and staff has been overwhelmingly positive.”
Over the past four years, he said, the Care Cart has had more than 100 volunteers, and each one reaches between 100 to 125 patients daily. They serve patients in surgical and medical ICUs, as well as hematology, oncology, and internal medicine departments.
The Care Cart can fulfill almost any patient request. Some ask for hygiene items, such as toothbrushes or deodorant. But, the Cart can also provide clothes, books, magazines, televisions, or X Boxes, as well as prosthetics or adaptive shoes for those with significant injuries.
In addition to managing the Care Cart, Shambon also coordinates the wounded warrior Pentagon tour. As part of the excursion, patients walk through the Pentagon and have lunch with generals and the Secretary of Defense.
Although he doesn’t have specific future plans, the Care Cart will likely be part of Shambon’s future activities. Until he has a reason to forego his involvement, he said he plans to contribute to the program in any way possible.
“As volunteers, we’re there to talk with patients about whatever is going on,” he said. “We’re there to demonstrate we support them.”