Children’s Miracle Network: Meet Sam the beloved Maynard facility dog

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) -All week long on WITN, we’ll continue to share the inspiring stories of many resilient children in the east but as the 39th annual Children’s Miracle Network Telethon approaches, we wanted to show you how the recent addition of man’s best friend at the James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital has lifted the spirits of patients.

When you visit the Jamie and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital, you probably expect to see patients roaming the halls but not a furry four-legged friend.

“We have patients tell us all the time, she’s the best investment this hospital’s ever made,” said ECU Health Child Life Specialist and Dog Handler, Ashton Ayers.

Meet Sam, a golden retriever, labrador, and doodle mix who’s known around the hospital for brightening children’s day.

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“She was going to be the best part of my day today no matter what happened,” said Maynard Children’s Hospital patient, Winter Burke.

2-year-old Sam joined the Maynard Canine Crew back in November 2023, but she’s quickly stolen the hearts of many patients.

Ayers says the love and comfort Sam provides is truly special for the children.

“As child life we’re the fun guys typically so they know us but after they’ve had 40 people in the room all day, seeing Sam is an instant smile and change in their attitude,” Ayers said.

Like many of us humans, Sam works Monday-Friday clocking 40 hours a week but for Sam putting smiles on the faces of kids like Burke makes it all worth it.

Burke says she’d been spending most her time at the hospital in bed, but seeing Sam changed that.

“I was very happy,” Burke said. “I wanted to cry because I felt like since I couldn’t see my own dog, she was like my own dog for day.”

Being in the hospital for long periods of time can be hard for any child, but with Sam there are no bad days even for Ayers.

“I say all the time since I’ve had Sam, I haven’t had a bad day at work,” Ayers said. “There’s been hard things we’ve had to deal with together, but just seeing her impact is truly amazing to see. She’s just such a cool co-worker, no one else gets to work with a dog everyday.”

Sam is so much more than just an ordinary four-legged friend to the patients at Maynard Children’s Hospital.

Some say they’re glad to have her as a safe haven because they don’t know if they’d be able to get through their individual health battles without her.

“I think it means a lot that they can make us happy,” Burke said.

Ayers says they’re now on the waiting list for another dog to add their team alongside Sam and hope your donations during this weekend’s Children’s Miracle Network telethon will help the Maynard Canine Crew continue to grow.