Keep Oregon Well is a public advocacy campaign designed to reduce stigma surrounding mental and behavioral health, build a trauma-informed community, and give people the opportunity to learn more about mental health and stand with those struggling with theirs.

This ongoing volunteer spotlight blog series features some of the many caring, talented, passionate people it takes to spread the word about Keep Oregon Well throughout Oregon!

Keep Oregon Well Volunteer Spotlight: Bob Robison

Why does mental health matter to you?

In High School I got interested in psychology, mental health, happiness, and (of course) the meaning of life (an important part of adolescence). I planned to become a clinical psychologist, but decided to get a degree in social work first. My first job after college, in 1972, was to help apply for a community mental health center for SE Portland, probably to be located on the campus of the Parry Center. But then I decided to study public administration, and spent most of my career managing lots of different things – from treatment centers for adolescents to the transport of high level nuclear waste.
I think programs like the Parry Center deserve community support to help others be healthy and happy – a basic human right.

What initially made you want to volunteer with Keep Oregon Well or Trillium?

Dylan the Wonder Dog and I became an animal assistance therapy team and tried out several different settings. We like the kids, the staff, and the vibe at the Parry Center. You do very important work, and seem to do it well. Everyone is treated with respect.

Tell me about your favorite volunteer experience?

My favorite memory is when one of the students figured out how to teach Dylan to score a soccer goal with his head. Then one day when Dylan and I were walking across the Parry Center campus I overheard her proudly announce to her friends that Dylan was the dog that she trained. She now has a dog all her own that she is training, and providing joy and meaning in her life.

Keep Oregon Well is centered around wellness and self-care. Tell us about some of the ways you take care of yourself.

My wife and I saved our money and stopped working. (It’s called retirement.) Now I take my other best friend, Dylan, to the Parry Center so he can have fun playing with children. We also hike in the woods, sleep late in the morning, and I’m learning to play the blues harmonica, which usually results in Dylan leaving the room.

Do you have a favorite quote you would be willing to share?

To paraphrase the Dali Lama, who I aspire to emulate, but mostly fail:
Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. (And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.) If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.\

Is there anything you would add?

Yes, let’s talk about dogs and therapy.
Scientists are starting to unravel the strong bond between people and dogs. They have discovered that when we interact with dogs we increase our levels of oxytocin, and the dogs do too. Oxytocin is a hormone associated with friendship, altruism, reduction of stress… and love. No wonder it’s therapeutic.
Dylan and I work through an all- volunteer program known as The Little Dog Laughed. If any of the Trillium staff or volunteers want to train their dogs and become a therapy team, please contact us here.

Thanks for the opportunity for Dylan and I to work with you to bring joy into the lives of the children in your care.

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