Blues times two: OPP officer does double duty as KHSC volunteer

News / General
By Anne Rutherford

Dave Canty finds new life balance in added shift work

Dave Canty is no stranger to wearing blue after 28 years with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and now three years as a volunteer at the KGH site of Kingston Health Sciences Centre.  For him, the colour serves one simple but important purpose:  it’s an icebreaker.

Thanks to his OPP blues, Dave has packed almost three decades of helping strangers in his back pocket, a skill that helped him make a smooth transition when he first pulled on a blue volunteer vest to lend a hand to the Hospital Elder Life Program and Information Desk at KGH.

“That blue vest opens the door to talking with everyone from patients to environmental services staff to doctors,” he says. “I never feel like ‘just’ a volunteer.  Whether I’m chatting with people on elevators or helping someone with their breakfast, I feel like part of family where people want and appreciate your help.”

Far from the usual volunteer profile of university student or active retiree, Dave juggles his volunteer work—about 12 shifts each month—with a demanding career as a full-time OPP Detective Constable and gaming investigator.  When that role started throwing his life out of balance three years ago, he clued into the need for something more in his life.

“As a cop it’s easy to go home, get out of the public eye and be a couch potato,” he says. “I was mentally and physically out of balance, which wasn’t good for me or my family. 

“When my wife suggested volunteering, KGH was an easy choice because of the excellent care my family had received there and because whenever I attended the Emergency Department in a police capacity I was always treated so well by volunteers and staff.”

At the end of his first shift, he left the hospital “walking on air” and still does every time he hangs up his blue vest for another day.

“As a police officer I’m often in an enforcement position when people don’t want help,” he explains.  “As a volunteer, I’m with people who want, need and welcome help—even something as simple as getting them a newspaper.  It’s a difference that has helped me to find a better balance in my life.”

And while he marvels at the wisdom and stories of the hospitalized elderly patients—“It’s amazing what I have in common with 92-year-olds!”—sometimes it turns out he’s the object of curiosity.

“If they ask, I tell people that I’m a police officer and, yes, they do want to see the badge,” he says with a laugh.  “That can lead to some pretty interesting conversations, including ones with people who don’t like the police.  I guess I sneak in a bit of community policing now and then but I always respect the colour of blue I’m wearing as a volunteer.”    

No longer a rookie, Dave now mentors new volunteers.  In general, he highly recommends making room in your life for volunteering of any kind even if you have a full-time job. 

“I tell people this is the best job I’ve ever had.  I wish I had started sooner,” he says.  “There’s something about volunteering that just feeds my soul.”