The Art of Gratitude

An illustrator and his wife are drawn to the joy of ‘giving back’—and brightening lives.



“You have to say ‘thank you’ in this life,” says Sam Garruto, “and there are a million ways to do it.” indeed, the Edison resident and his wife, Virginia, don’t stick with just one. Grateful for the successful care virginia received during an extended stay at Saint Peter’s University Hospital a few years ago, they are major donors to the hospital and major volunteers in its halls.

Garruto shows what he calls his “attitude of gratitude” in a third way too—through his stock in trade. A professional artist whose career has included creating artwork for the family entertainment industry, he has donated several paintings and illustrations that now grace the walls of the hospital’s public spaces and patient-care areas. One of his latest works is found in the labor & Delivery waiting area. It portrays a group of puppies engaged in mischief—he says it’s intended to give parents a gentle heads-up about babies’ propensity to spill, throw and crawl their way into situations that test one’s patience and good humor.

The couple began volunteering at saint Peter’s three years ago as a means of expressing their appreciation to the hospital. They spend three days a week there: Sam helps visitors in the gift shop while virginia delivers cards, flowers and other items to patients’ rooms. Everyone they meet receives a broad smile and an encouraging word, and that unfailing kindness has made an encounter with the Garrutos an eagerly awaited bright spot in the day of many a staff member, patient or regular visitor.

“I know everybody in the hospital, and I love them,” says Sam.

The Garrutos also serve on numerous hospital committees, and recently demonstrated both their appreciation and their considerable generosity with a $25,000 donation toward construction of the newly expanded and renovated Emergency Department.

While the Garrutos are very serious about their commitment to Saint Peter’s, they don’t like to take themselves seriously. “Do you know one reason we decided to volunteer so much?” asks Sam with a wry smile. “Well, we got old, and we were just sitting around looking at each other all day, and we got bored.” he quickly adds, “In truth, we are just so pleased with the hospital and the staff, and the great care that they provided Virginia, and this is our way of saying ‘thank you.’” —T.G.

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