An 81-year-old grandad and ultra-marathon runner from Kennington, who is known as ‘Super Mario’, has been praised for volunteering at Guy’s and St Thomas’ for forty years.
Mario Rebellato, 81, started his volunteering service at the Trust in 1983 five years after his two young children were in-patients at St Thomas’ Hospital for several weeks.
He said he was so impressed with their care, he pledged to “give back” to the hospital.
Since then, he has volunteered at Guy’s and St Thomas’ at least once a week for 40 years. After initially working in a geriatric ward, Mario moved to a children’s ward, then transferred to Evelina London Children’s Hospital when it opened in 2005, where he still volunteers.
Mario, a dad of two and grandfather of three who works full-time as a personal assistant for a property maintenance company, said: “I’ve never looked back. Forty years on, I still love it. It’s a very rewarding job and is a good way of contributing something.
“Volunteering gives me a great deal of pleasure.”
Mario cycles to the hospital every weekend from his home in Kennington, south London. His duties include keeping the staff and parents’ kitchens in order. In the earlier years of his volunteering, he worked with children on the wards.
He has become known as ‘Super Mario’ – which he said is a nickname he gave himself when on the ward. “The kids loved it when I introduced myself as that. It would always get a smile – especially because my brother’s name is Luigi!”
He explained that he has seen changes in the NHS over the years. “In the early days, it was all hands on deck,” he said. “There were about 24 children and six nurses. Parents weren’t allowed to stay overnight in those days so I helped out feeding kids, bathing them, and putting them to bed.
“I got a reputation as the go-to person if a child was crying and wouldn’t go to sleep. They’d give them to me, I’d pick them up, comfort them and they’d soon go to sleep.”
He added: “It brings you back down to earth.”
Mario is passionate about what he does and encourages others to do the same. “There needs to be more volunteers.
“Even if it is once a month – it doesn’t have to be 40 years.”
By his own admission, Mario ‘never does things by halves’ which seeps into his life outside work as well.
To date, he has run six gruelling marathon des sables in the Moroccan desert and has applied to do his seventh, taking place in April next year.
“I’ve been running since I was in my 30s – so at my tender age now I know my limits. But so far, it’s been good.”
Sue Cox, Associate Chief Nurse at Guy’s and St Thomas’, presented Mario with a volunteer award during a ceremony at Guy’s Hospital. She said: “We’re incredibly grateful to Mario for his unstinting support for so many of our patients over 40 years.
“Volunteers like Mario make an important contribution, providing a caring and welcoming service to our patients, visitors and staff. Thank you Mario for all you have done.”
Mario has also fundraised for Evelina London over the years and said he was looking forward to continuing to look after patients and staff for years to come.
You can find out more about volunteering here.