Take Charge

A Caregiver’s Silver Lining

April 28, 2017

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Howard Berneburg didn’t begin his Moffitt journey as a volunteer. His earliest glimpses of the cancer center were through the eyes of a caregiver, as he accompanied his wife Melanie throughout her battle with leukemia. “She spent an incredible amount of time here, and I was with her every day,” he says. Howard and his wife got to know Moffitt well, including many of the staff members and volunteers. "I remember meeting one volunteer, he was always so helpful, he would look for us — he was wonderful. One day Melanie said to me:" "When this is over, you should think about doing this."

Howard had thought about volunteering, but it took him a little while to come back to Moffitt after his wife passed away. “I’d come over, park my car and come in and just walk around.” About six weeks later, when he felt he was ready, he was knocking on the door of the volunteer services department to submit his application.

Fast forward eight years and Howard is a lot like that really helpful volunteer he remembers. He’s racked up a hefty stack of Volunteer of the Year nominations, and has received countless handwritten notes from patients who thank him for his warmth, the laughter, and the smiles.

Howard makes it a point to be here when most others aren't - like on Christmas morning. He throws on his Santa hat, decorates a cart with lights, antlers, and a big red nose, and hands out a couple hundred candy canes along with care packages donated to Volunteer Services. "These are some of the best Christmases ever, really. This has been one of the greatest experiences of my life," says Howard. He has often wished his wife could see him doing this. What would she think if she saw that I’m still here, still coming to Moffitt eight years after she’s been gone? I think she’d say “That sounds like something Howard would do.”

Interested in volunteering? Learn more about volunteer opportunities at Moffitt.