I began my odyssey with JourneyCare some eight months ago, after my fifth experience with hospice for family members. Having recently retired and looking to give back – but uncertain if volunteering at hospice was right for me – I discovered the We Honor Veterans program and found a perfect fit.
Our family's JourneyCare experience was exceptional. We discovered services beyond skilled nursing care, such as art, music, massage and Reiki therapies, pet care, patient visitation and, of course, We Honor Veterans. Many of these integrated services are provided by a host of passionate volunteers.
The We Honor Veterans program recognizes current and former military members for their service and assists them in accessing benefits they are entitled to receive. JourneyCare is one of the only nonprofit hospices in the Chicago area that is recognized by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) as a partner in the We Honor Veterans program. JourneyCare also sponsors a Veteran Volunteers Advisory Council that engages veteran-centric event planning, training, and educational opportunities.
Santa and Mrs. Claus have a special place in their hearts for JourneyCare kids, all year long! And they both are joining JourneyCare to host Christmas in July in the south suburbs this summer!
It all started over a cup of coffee and a conversation I had with Nancy Sullivan. Nancy was ready to volunteer for JourneyCare and be a care companion for our patients. Nancy shared with me that she is the wingman to a very prominent historical figure … Santa!
Nancy explained that her husband, also known as Steve Sullivan, spent much of the past Christmas season visiting our CareCenters and pediatric patients at their homes. It was obvious bringing holiday joy is their mission, and they were happy that JourneyCare gave them the opportunity to help in this way.
Camp Courage is JourneyCare’s bereavement camp and activities for children and teens, ages 6-13, who are grieving the loss of a loved one.
When I took it on, I assumed being a Camp Courage volunteer would be tough. I knew that spending a week with kids ages 6-13 who had recently experienced a significant death would challenge my emotional wherewithal. Given my career working with the juvenile justice system and the skills I developed in that role, I decided I could handle it. But I learned, until you are there, you can’t truly anticipate the reality and rewards of Camp Courage.
My dog Sydney and I have been a pet therapy team with Journey Care for the last two years. When people think of therapy dogs most picture a little pup who will come lay quietly in their lap or on their bed. But when we arrive we can see the surprise in their eyes; Sydney is 80 pounds of labradoodle. Her size makes it easy for patients to reach her from their chair or bed. And people have shared that having a big dog lean on you is like getting a wonderful furry hug.
Most of us will enjoy Memorial Day weekend as the kickoff to summer. But the reason the holiday began has a sobering history, which JourneyCare’s We Honor Veterans program will help area senior living communities to remember this year.
Memorial Day pays tribute to the more than 1 million Americans who left home to fight for our country but did not return: to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us, and to pay them homage. There are currently more than 21 million military veterans living in our country - but this is not their day.
On Sunday, April 29, I had the pleasure of attending the annual Mitzvah Day program at Congregation Beth Tikvah in Hoffman Estates, one of more than 400 communities served by JourneyCare. A Mitzvah Day is a day in Jewish communities when congregation members come together to perform a wide variety of deeds that benefit their community. Many congregations in our service area have these annual programs.
The focus of this particular Mitzvah Day was inspired by a Jewish Care Services patient we cared for last year in our Marshak Family Hospice CareCenter in Glenview.
I'm a hospice volunteer who offers companionship and support to patients, but I felt anxious about visiting a hospice patient with memory loss. Would I make a connection that could provide comfort? Donna became my first teacher.
Donna, not her real name, was in her 70s, living in a nursing home, with advanced Alzheimer’s disease. She appeared short with a slight frame. She sat in a reclining chair in the television room, which was sparsely decorated. She had pads on her hands to keep from scratching her skin.
Many of us are familiar with a fabulous quote often attributed to William Shakespeare or Pablo Picasso:
“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
The all-volunteer SOUL Harbour Ranch Animal Therapy Program has found our gift and we are happy to “give away” the unconditional love of our very special miniature therapy horses, miniature therapy donkeys and therapy dogs to JourneyCare and other organizations throughout the Chicago area!
Just over two years ago, a young mother arrived at our Barrington CareCenter to receive end-of-life care. One of her final wishes was to create some memories with her young daughter during her very limited time left.
One request was to have a final “spa day” together. After contacting multiple local salons to assist with this very special request, Spa Bleu quickly returned the call to say they would love to offer their services for no charge and make her wish a reality. This began our amazing partnership with Spa Bleu.
I'm Buttons, a JourneyCare therapy dog that works with Steve, my partner and owner. We've been a pet therapy team with JourneyCare for over six years. We bring joy, companionship and stress relief to comfort care patients who like animals or miss their own pets. We visit patients and their loved ones in the CareCenters, and at retirement homes, hospitals, assisted living facilities and their homes. Steve's first therapy dog was Annie, a golden retriever, and they were partners together for six years also.