Spirit of the Valley: Virginia and Isiah


The Sun received many worthy nominations for our inaugural Sprit of the Valley Award recognizing the volunteer of the year. Here’s one from B Cullen, executive director of WillMar Center, about a unique volunteer team making a real difference.

“Since 2008, Virginia Bertelsen, grief program volunteer and companion to her Golden Retriever, Isiah, have delivered compassion and unconditional support to the children at WillMar Family Grief & Healing Center. Each week, Virginia and Isiah have shared hope, love and compassion with children grieving the death of an important person in their lives. Virginia is an essential member of WillMar’s Emergency Services team, bringing Isiah to schools and agencies when tragedy strikes. This reliable duo create a calming presence and sense of safety for the children as they share their deep feelings and thoughts of loss and healing. Virginia has a wonderful ability to notice who is in need of support, whether it is in a school setting or within our in-house grief support programming. She is able to facilitate a very special time between a grieving child and Isiah. And just as much as the children respond to this act of kindness, so does Virginia and Isiah. “I love to watch the magic that happens between Isiah and people who are struggling or hurting,” said Bertelsen. “The dogs, they know instinctively who needs healing and they go to that person.” Virginia embraces the importance of being a grief support volunteer, and together with Isiah, this Dream Team of Support for the children of Sonoma makes a positive impact within our community. Their gift of unconditional love to the grieving children at WillMar and the community is priceless!”

Meet the 2013 winner Jean Hopeman.


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