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.”

To Leave a Special Legacy

Jeannie Strong is a talented and creative woman with a heart for service. She helped her husband, former Richmond, Ky., Mayor Bill Strong, serve his community for decades as a city commissioner, a magistrate, and as mayor.  And, in her life away from public service, she put her creativity to work.

Jeannie’s creative touch extends to nearly everything around her: growing flowers and vegetables, upholstery, sewing, and endless crafts.

Her walls are draped with aprons she made from vintage material. She has steamer trunks

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Jeannie with her daughter and some of her beautiful, hand-made stockings.

filled with pictures of blue ribbons she’s won at the Madison County Fair over the years.

So, nine months ago, when she was diagnosed with end-stage lung cancer and given a prognosis of one year to live, Jeannie responded in typical fashion.  She wanted to work through it with her hands—to put them to use on a special project.

Jeannie’s immediate bucket-list wish was to make every single person in her family a Christmas stocking before she dies.

When she came to Hospice Care Plus, the team saw right away that this project was very important to her.  They saw the beautiful fabrics Jeannie was working with to make the stockings: burlap, ribbons, even an old mink stole that belonged to her mother. But they also knew that it was about much more than fabric, or even the stockings themselves.

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Jeannie shows her Hospice Care Plus nurse, Junie, one of her vintage aprons.

What Jeannie Strong was working on her legacy.

The hospice team knew its job was to make sure Jeannie continued to feel well enough to finish the project.  So, together, they dealt with pain and symptom management so Jeannie could continue sewing stockings.

Every day, Jeannie walked down her narrow basement stairs to check her progress.  She was admitted to Hospice Care Plus in October. By January, Jeannie was finished with every last one.

But, she wasn’t done yet.  Her next project is a quilt for her newest great-grandchild.

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Jeannie with husand Bill Strong.

When that’s finished and Jeannie turns to her next project, we’ll be by her side the whole way, making sure she feels as well as she can for as long as possible. Because, as hospice care staff, we know that fine-tuning one’s legacy is a top bucket-list wish for patients. We also know that, in order for peace and quality of life to truly win the day, those bucket-list wishes must be met.