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He’s Riley’s Singing Maintenance Man

Blog He’s Riley’s Singing Maintenance Man

Underneath that big smile and sweet demeanor is a voice that is smooth and pure. And Smith has used that hidden talent for good – singing time and time again to the children at Riley.


He walks every nook and cranny of the hospital with a keen and discerning eye to anything big or anything small that needs attention.

New hardware for a faucet. A light fixture that needs secured. Wiring. Toilets. An issue with an elevator.

It’s Wayne Smith’s job as a technician in the maintenance department at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health to keep the hospital safe.

Yet, there is so much more to what Smith does. Underneath that big smile and sweet demeanor is a voice that is smooth and pure.

And Smith has used that hidden talent for good – singing time and time again to the sickest of children at Riley. Quietly and with little fanfare, he has been Riley’s singing maintenance man for nearly 20 years.

If you said goodbye to me tonight There would still be music left to write What else could I do I'm so inspired by you That hasn't happened for the longest time 

Smith breaks out into a Billy Joel classic in the lobby by the glass elevators. And it’s beautiful.

“I’m here for the kids,” Smith says of his career. “That’s it.”

***

Raised in Indianapolis, Smith was born at Marion County General Hospital. While attending Thomas Carr Howe Community High School, he started working at IU Health Methodist Hospital in the dietary department.

He liked the hospital work life. After graduating from high school in 1978, Smith worked various jobs for the next 20 years, including at area hospitals.

In 1998, he heard about an opening in environmental services at Riley.

“I was always curious about the children’s hospital so I prayed on it,” says Smith, who is married to Shannon. “I felt led to come here. I just knew this was where I was supposed to be.”

He left the job he was at on a Friday in August of 1998 and started at Riley the following Monday.

At first, Smith was responsible for trash runs. Then he moved to floors – cleaning carpets and scrubbing and waxing floors. After six years of impressive, solid work, he came to the maintenance department as a technician.

And from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day, Smith walks those halls keeping the hospital safe.

And he sings.

 ***

His first Christmas at Riley, a group was scheduled to sing to the kids, but bad weather cancelled the plans.

Smith decided to save the day, and he gathered a group to sing. Every year since, he has sung at Riley at Christmas.

“I’ve even got some of the maintenance guys to come out of that hard shell and participate,” he says.

Inside an elevator, Smith has been known to break out into song – especially if he’s with a child and parent. Chaplains have called him into rooms to sing bedside. And he has gotten permission to walk the hospital floors singing songs to sick patients.

He is an artistic man by nature. Smith is also a talented painter. One of his pieces, a painting of elephants, hangs in Riley’s halls. 


He created it for an employee – now retired. But he loves that it might also bring joy to the patients.

“Once I got over here, I knew why I was supposed to be here,” Smith says. “Because of the kids.”

More with Smith

Personal: He and his wife Shannon are the proud parents to three Akita dogs, Nikko, Aki and Skyy and two cats, Twilight and Frankie.

Favorite music genre: Gospel, R&B, a little bit of country and rap -- pretty much anything and everything.

Bonus fact: He’s a romantic. Smith wears two wedding rings after renewing his vows to Shannon.

-- By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.
 Reach Benbow via email dbenbow@iuhealth.org or on Twitter @danabenbow.

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