Brightening days, one tale at a time

Denis McCrae saw an advertisement asking for volunteers at the Thomson Centre, about two years ago, and thought to himself, I have some time to spare, I can do that. He wasn’t quite certain what he was getting into, but McCrae is glad he did. It has turned out to be one of the best decisions he’s ever made.

After moving to the Yukon 49 years ago from Red Deer, Alberta, as a radio operator for the Ministry of Transport in Mayo, he retired about eight years ago and found he had the time to get involved. McCrae has dedicated his time at the Thomson Centre to reading to residents, which is often the highlight of their day.

“It breaks up their day,” he explained. “Many are are in a wheelchair and can’t get around easily. It really cheers them up.”

And the reading is diverse for McCrae, as he often has one-on-one sessions reading to residents. But these sessions are open to others, so if they are interested, they are more than welcome to follow along. When asked what stories bring the residents to gather around, he noted that there is a particular subject in demand.

“They most like to hear stories of the North and the Klondike Gold Rush,” McCrae shared. “We were reading a story of a woman who moved to Atlin during the Gold Rush. But anything to do with the North is popular.”

The work has has also built strong friendships. McCrae shared that he has become good friends with one lady who he reads to regularly. She and her husband have joined him for dinner on several occasions. ‘If you volunteer with a certain person, you become friends,” he said. “It was nice to give them a change of scenery.”

But it’s not really just reading that McCrae brings, it’s an attitude of giving some of himself to the residents. And he wants Yukoners to know that they can help with so much more than just reading.

“One fellow I visit, he doesn’t like stories, he just wants to chat as a friend,” McCrae explained.

The continuing care facilities around the territory are always looking for more volunteers. Interested Yukoners can find contact information for the facilities under “Continuing Care” on the Health and Social Services website,

McCrae has some advice for Yukoners who are wondering if it’s for them. “[If you’re] the type of person to give up some time,” McCrae shared. “Only an hour, or an hour and a half, but it makes all the difference.

“Whatever helps them out. That’s the main thing.”

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