The quiet volunteer making dreams come true

An aged care volunteer has gone above and beyond to make a dream come true for three senior Geelong residents, after he realised, by sheer coincidence, they all share the same history.

Shane Clarke is a man of few words.

But the difference he’s making in the lives of some very special seniors at Bupa Bellarine, is nothing short of remarkable.

"He’s like our mascot," chuckles 78-year-old Bob Sadler. "But we don’t tell him that."

Shane's been volunteering at Bupa Bellarine aged care home for years.

Shane showing respects

He often spends time with residents in the shed, socialising, playing games and getting creative. He realised just by coincidence that three former British soldiers had all been living together, unaware of their shared history.

78 year old Bob Sadler, 82 year old Eric Wainwright and 81 year old Ron Ridyard quickly bonded, and for the first time started to open up about some of the trauma, hardships and highlights experienced more than 50 years ago.

Shane could see how quickly the trio was forming deep friendships, finally able to share that time in their lives with people who truly understood. But he wanted to do more.

He found out the men were entitled to medals which they had never received, as they were living in a new country. So he started working. In his spare time, he started communicating with the British Embassy. He went above and beyond for months on end, to ensure the men were formally recognised for their service.

A year later, all three were awarded the same commemorative service medals.

Find out more about the medals and their shared past, read our article '3 unsung heroes reunited in aged care.'

Five all together

Bupa Bellarine General Manager Jannie Piercy says that she noticed a change in all four men, the day the honours arrived.

“The day the medals arrived, the men grew taller. They were so proud. And Shane’s excitement was so wonderful, it was the sort of reaction you have when you’ve achieved something great.”

“It was a wonderful surprise,” says Ron, “and it really means a lot to all of us.”

When you watch the new best friends spending time together, you can see the sparkle in their eyes, the strength in their bond, and the spring in their steps as they slap each other on the back and poke fun at each other. 

As Bob explains, it’s all thanks to one man, sharing happiness.  

“It all stems from one single good hearted volunteer in the true sense of the word.” 

Shane Clarke has donated so much more to the Bupa Bellarine residents than just his time. He’s brought the residents together, and reminded them to feel proud of the incredible things they’ve achieved in life.

It’s a relationship which has not only helped the residents, it’s helped Shane too.

So what is it that motivates him?

War veteran walking

“I’m proud to mix with them, because they’re my elders. You only learn from your elders. The knowledge that these men have is just unbelievable,” he says.

Jannie says that while many of the residents are living with different medical conditions, Shane doesn’t see any of it.

“He looks beyond that. He has enormous respect for people as individuals, so their relationships are really natural and comfortable,” she says.

“Here at Bupa Bellarine, we’re one of the first person-first homes in Australia, we’re very proud of that. For us, it’s really all about caring for our greats. We’re really keen for people to experience life and continue to learn and grow as they age with us.”

There’s a lot to learn from Shane’s dedication and commitment, and the incredibly important role carers play within our society. The friendships he’s created have made an enormous difference to the emotional wellbeing of others. He’s gone the extra mile for the people he cares about, and given them invaluable gifts, which money can’t buy. Recognition, friendships, pride.

What will you do to make a difference for someone special? It doesn't have to be a grand gesture, sometimes it's the small things which have the biggest impact.

For more ideas on small things you can do to make a big difference, check out our article “7 ways to show your greats you care.” 

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