Chocolate, flowers and jewelry are iconic ways to show people you care at this time of year. While Orion Township resident Dan Dewey, 65, did pass out roses on Thursday for Valentine’s Day, he shows cancer patients he cares year-round with a weekly with a cup of coffee.
Since 2008, Dewey has been known as the coffee guy at the Michigan Cancer Institute (MCI) at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland Hospital in Pontiac. Dewey’s father, Edgar, was going through tests for colon cancer, and Dewey would ask him if he wanted any coffee. Dewey started asking other patients and staff members whether they wanted coffee as well, without asking for money in return. Once his father was no longer making trips to the hospital, Dewey said he asked his father whether he should continue his weekly trips — and he has ever since. His father died shortly after Dewey chose to continue his coffee runs.
“It isn’t about me,” said Dewey, who is also a retired video playback operator and programmer for Birmingham Public Schools. “I like to distract people with the coffee … and here, I can use my gift of being goofy.”
Now a tradition, Dewey stops in at MCI every Thursday, asks patients and staff members what they would like and returns with stacks of coffee cups. When Dewey makes his coffee runs, he doesn’t get coffee from just anywhere; he goes down the road to the Starbucks in Bloomfield Hills. Starbucks is highlighting his compassionate efforts with a video posted on its website.
Brightening up the cancer center
“He’s just super. Just by him walking in the door with a smile on his face, it lightens everybody’s day,” Nancy Wyzgoski of Ortonville said.
Wyzgoski is a nurse at the hospital and a breast cancer patient who has had treatments at the center since August. One of Dewey’s visits that stands out in her mind was her second appointment, when she had a bad reaction to her medication. Dewey saw the reaction and left the hospital and brought her back a rose.
Patient Susan Engh of Ortonville agreed that Dewey lights up the place with his big heart and charming persona. She noted that Dewey is "such a blessing." Engh was thrilled to receive a rose from Dewey, along with her coffee, in celebration of Valentine’s Day.
“That just puts the icing on the cake,” she said.
In addition to coffee and the roses Dewey distributes for special occasions, he also purchased the aquarium that sits in the cancer center’s waiting room.
“I think he’s one of the most generous individuals I have ever met,” Janet Bertling of Waterford said.
Bertling said she has been going to the center since 2004 but wasn’t originally scheduled for Thursday visits. Her schedule was switched one day, so she came in on Thursday — and after hearing Dewey’s story, she decided she didn’t want to miss any of his visits.
“It was so much fun, I decided I would change my schedule and come on Thursdays all the time,” Bertling said.
Giving back benefits everyone
Dewey said he enjoys visiting with patients and building relationships. Many patients noted that he brings in medals from marathons he recently ran to show them. Dewey also is appreciated for being respectful and not bothering patients if they are having a bad day and do not want the company.
Dewey credits his mother, who died shortly before his father, for his volunteer-oriented mindset. He said his mother taught him that volunteering was important, and he noted that helping out at church and the Baldwin Center were things they commonly did while he was growing up.
“You would just see the difference, feel the difference you made,” Dewey said. “I get as much out of this as anybody else.”
To donate to Dewey’s coffee runs costs, visit danscoffeerun.net.