To Give Back

Don Ray loved music. Specifically, he loved to collect it, sing it, and entertain with it. By the time he chose hospice care, he had thousands of CDs that made up an impressive

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Don with Nikki Stuart and Julie Hatfield, who helped him organize his bucket-list karaoke event.

collection for one of his favorite hobbies: karaoke.

When Sally Iseral Shepherd, his Hospice Care Plus chaplain, visited him, they often sang a song or two. In spite of end-stage lung disease, Don never stopped singing.

“Singing opened up his lungs and made him feel better,” Sally remembers. “Plus, we enjoyed it.  We had a great time singing those songs.”

During one visit, Don mentioned that he wanted to put all that music to good use. He’d decided he wanted to host a karaoke concert as a fundraiser for Hospice Care Plus.  He talked it over with Nikki Stuart, who helps with fundraising at Hospice.

“He told me he wanted to give back,” Nikki says. “He said it was important to him, and that he wanted to make sure other people could benefit from hospice the way he had. He and his wife had only one request—to do it soon, while he still felt well enough to host and sing.”

In the first week of June, Nikki and Sally shared the work of going door-to-door in Richmond, looking for a place that would allow Don to perform on short notice and without charging a fee. Unfortunately, during the summer months, most venues have entertainment scheduled weeks in advance. Although owners wanted to help, they were understandably reluctant to bump a scheduled entertainer from the schedule.

Then, Nikki walked into Purdy’s Coffee shop on Main Street in Richmond.  Owner Kristin Purdy heard the story and, without a second thought, agreed to give their next Thursday night music event over to Don.

Even though there were only a few days to advertise, dozens of friends, family, and supporters crowded Purdy’s on a beautiful June evening. Anyone lucky enough to wander in got to see Don, flushed with excitement, making the rounds to greet everyone, choosing the right music for the next karaoke performer, or—if they were truly lucky—singing a duet with his chaplain, Sally.

Don seemed to swell with pride with each dollar dropped into his fundraising jar that night.  By the end of the evening, he knew he’d accomplished his goal of helping patients and families who, like him, have more living to do but need help feeling well enough to do it.

“It was a real honor to be there and watch this dream come true for him,” says Nikki. “His face was lit up with an enormous smile all evening long. It clearly made him very happy, and that felt great for all of us who were there.”

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