Hospice fundraiser aims to light up lives

Posted: Sunday, December 05, 2010

Light Up A Life is Hospice and Home Care of Juneau's main fundraiser, held at the Nugget Mall from Thanksgiving through Christmas each year. There are two trees set up on which to hang stars and candles with the names of those who have died and those who are living who light up our lives. Many people contribute year after year and hang stars in honor of loved ones who have died.

Nancy Davis says, "It is the ultimate Christmas present for my parents who have passed on. I used to pull out all the stops at Christmas for them. After they died, it was difficult when I was out shopping and there were no gifts to buy for them. Now, I honor their memories and get to buy them a Christmas present of a donation to Hospice."

For another family, it is a way to honor their wife and mother who recently died. The children each decorate a star for mom, as does her husband. It is a way to feel like they are reaching out even though she is no longer physically present with them. They will come and pick up their stars after Christmas and will become a part of the memories of their mom and how she continues to live on in those memories.

Many donors come to the Nugget Mall looking for the stars or candles for their loved ones on the trees. The star helps them to keep memories of their loved one alive. People walking by often stop to ask what the ornaments are for. Once explained, they look at the names and often funny or poignant stories come tumbling out. For others, it is "I remember them."

For those who are living and have everything, a candle on the tree can be the perfect present. One woman came by and said she didn't know what to get her husband for Christmas. If they want something, they just get it throughout the year. She had been thinking of making a donation to an organization, but just didn't know which one. When she saw the tree and candles, she knew right then what she was getting her husband for Christmas. When she brought him by the next day, his face lit up seeing his name. For them, it was the perfect Christmas.

Suggested levels of giving are $10, $25, $100, $250 or more. For those especially generous and who donate $1,000 or more, their names will appear on the plaque that hangs in the hallway outside of Hospice and Home Care of Juneau's office. Volunteers will be staffing the Light Up A Life table on weekends at the Nugget Mall. There is also literature on the table. You can mail in your donation with the name of the loved one you would like remembered. Those ornaments are then made and put on the tree within the week.

Hospice and Home Care of Juneau provides many services, not only to those who are terminally ill, but also to those who are homebound due to illness or injury. Home health nursing and therapy services are provided to those who are homebound who have been referred by their doctor. Nurses help with pain management, educating the family on how to care for their loved one, making sure the family has the equipment and knowledge to care for their loved one, and helping prepare the patient and family for the impending death. Hospice also provides social worker services to assist families in decision making and implementing a living will, health care power of attorney and in assisting the family through this difficult time. Our chaplain is available to help with spiritual concerns of the patient and family. Volunteers are also available to help with respite while caring for a dying family member, to run errands, walk the dog or cook a meal in support of our families. Nurses visit hospice patients regardless of if there is insurance or Medicare or other payer source.

Other services include the eight-week grief groups available to the community twice a year to help those who have had a family member or friend die and to help them through the grief process. Our social worker can help provide up to two free visits for members of the community who are grieving and need help in coping with their grief or to help find an appropriate provider if the person needs long-term counseling.

Please consider helping to support Hospice and Home Care of Juneau and its services by contributing to Light Up A Life. If you have any questions about this fundraiser or about our services, please call us at 463-6111.

• Tammy Antoniadis is a volunteer coordinator for Hospice and Home Care of Juneau.

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