It’s been said that a smile has a remarkable power to make everyone around you smile back.
Over the past eight years, visitors to the Carson Valley Medical Center main campus in Gardnerville have frequently been greeted by volunteer Diane Maki. Many, despite whatever the reason for their visit at the time, have found their days suddenly changed by one such smile.
“It’s never mattered to me how I felt,” Diane said. “I care how others feel. If I can help even one person smile, it makes my entire day.”
This past May, Diane was awarded CVMC’s Claire Bauer Heart of a Volunteer Award, given annually to a volunteer within the CVMC organization.
The award’s namesake — Claire Bauer — passed away unexpectedly at the age of 71 in February of 2016. She had been a long-time volunteer at CVMC, as well as within Douglas County School District. Her family wanted to carry on their mother’s legacy by recognizing others who, like Claire, have a kind, compassionate and giving heart — always willing to lend a hand.
“I was very honored to receive this award,” Diane said. “I knew Claire well. This is a close-knit group of people who volunteer at Carson Valley Medical Center. You get close to the people you’re serving with and the volunteers, the staff, the patients and visitors here make me feel like family. It is a unique and special place.”
Diane says she can track the smiles deep into her childhood, back to the earliest memories of her father.
“He was always happy and smiling,” she said. “He would do anything to make someone else’s day. And many times it was as simple as a smile. He’d smile and it would make my day. I made a point to approach others like that.”
Diane married her husband of 55 years, Wayne, when they were both 19 years old.
“He has always just been such a kind and loving man,” she said. “He’s encouraged me and made me feel so loved, I’ve always wanted to share that feeling with everyone. He encouraged me to do things, to get involved in things, my whole life. I just love making people happy.”
It’s a passion she carried through years working with the Orange County School District in California, working with children who had been victims of abuse, and also managing a department in The Treasure discount department store chain.
“I just always tried to make things fun for my employees at the store,” she said. “When I was working with children, there were children who would never smile because of what they had been through. If over time I could get them to smile, to know how loved they are, it just made my day.”
When Diane and her husband retired to Carson Valley eight years ago, she caught on volunteering with the CVMC Auxiliary almost immediately.
“I only knew two people when we moved up here,” she said. “My husband had helped a friend move into the area some years earlier and fell in love with the town. When we moved here, I really didn’t know anyone, but I have always liked to help people.”
“The staff here was so wonderful. They are so caring. I love them, I love the volunteers. (2018 Heart of a Volunteer Award Winner) Chris Longley taught me how to do everything and she really helped me a lot. After these years, I feel people care about me and it’s just been my goal to continue to make other people’s days better.”
Diane and Wayne have two children and two grandchildren. Her son, Austin, lives in Carson Valley and tends to a garden of his parents’ property every year. Her daughter, Christine, lives in Burbank, Calif., where she works for the Institute for Applied Behavior Analysis and finds the time to call Diane daily to check in on her. Diane’s granddaughter, Lana, is in her second year at UC Santa Barbara and her grandson, Kelsey, works in property leasing. Diane said she finds time to get away and visit her family on a regular basis (“They’re the highlight of my life,” she says), enjoying family camping trips and navigating the geographic divide between Southern California and Northern Nevada.
In the meantime, she says she’s found a second family in the staff and volunteers at Carson Valley Medical Center.
“I was lost when we moved here,” she said. “It was great for me to come to this hospital and right away meet some really great people.”
Anyone interested in volunteering with the CVMC Auxiliary can call 775-783-3083 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nominations are open for the next Claire Bauer Heart of a Volunteer Award. Nominations for the award may be submitted by paper or electronically.
To read more about the Heart of a Volunteer Award or nominate a volunteer, visit cvmchospital.org/heartofavolunteer.
Carson Valley Medical Center is a non-profit healthcare system that provides acute and ICU care, surgery, 24-hour emergency services, primary care and outpatient services within Carson Valley. A partnership of Barton Health and Renown Health, Carson Valley Medical Center’s mission is to care for the health and wellness of our community by providing accessible, affordable, high quality healthcare for all. For more information, visit www.cvmchospital.org