From psychiatrist to volunteer - Dr. Russ Fleming gives back

From psychiatrist to volunteer - Dr. Russ Fleming gives back


When Dr. Russ Fleming was growing up in the
countryside of southwestern Dr. Russ FlemingOntario, there were few organized sports for him to participate in. But he always understood the benefits of physical activity for our mental health, and it’s something he still believes in. 

So much so, that when he started at Waypoint in the early 1970’s, it was natural for him to participate in the various sports and recreational activities offered at what was then the Oak Ridge Division.

“We played a lot of softball in those days,” says Fleming. “It was always staff against patients and there were some remarkably good ball players.”

Dr. Fleming spent over forty years as a psychiatrist at Waypoint, and has always been involved in everything from softball, to tennis, fishing and golf. He fondly remembers chaperoning yearly boat trips.

“It took about three hours to get up into Honey Harbour and back. In the hospital it was rare to have that much time to spend with patients, so being on the boat was a great opportunity to just sit and chat.”

He took patients fishing and spearheaded a morning walk program for patients. 

“The walk program started at the same time as construction of the new Atrium building,” he says. “We watched the construction progress every day and the patients really looked forward to it.”

This past summer, Dr. Fleming decided it was time for him to retire. And after that many years on the job, who could blame him? But not wanting to give it all up, he signed on as a Waypoint volunteer.

Dr Russ FlemingWith his love of the outdoors and all things recreational, this is where he spends his time volunteering. In the last few months Fleming reeled in a few fish at Six Mile Provincial Park and tried to catch a foul ball at a Blue Jays game. This winter he hopes to see the Barrie Colts put a few pucks in the net. 

Recreation therapist Hali Fitzpatrick says Dr. Fleming is an important part of the special events she organizes “he helps us plan and chaperone events that patients love. Without his kindness, enthusiasm and commitment to our patients, many of these events would not happen.”

He jokes he only takes on volunteer opportunities where he has no responsibility and gets a free meal, but somehow, I think there’s more to it than that. You can’t beat spending time with patients you care about and seeing them excel in the recreational activities they love.