A fun evening of music, laughter and festive food is on tap to raise funds for Valley Hospice's unfunded care program, an initiative to ensure that services are provided to area residents in their greatest time of need.
Most boomers and seniors are aware of the concept behind hospice care, but they may not realize that at least one area entity provides this type of care to people who lack insurance coverage or personal resources to pay for those services.
While Valley Hospice has provided such assistance throughout the years, having a specific fund designated for "unfunded care" is a new concept for the organization, according to Judi Hladek, development director.
"We've always done unfunded care. Now we have a specific fund and having fundraisers specifically for that," she said. "We want to make sure we have a pool of money to provide this."
Valley Hospice provided about $100,000 worth of unfunded care services in 2013 alone, Hladek said. "We've provided more than $1 million of free care in 28 years," she added.
In a changing health care arena, Hladek explained, "It's critical that we create a pool of money to secure our unfunded care program so that, no matter what circumstances, we'll be able to pay (for such care)."
Cynthia Bougher, chief executive officer of Valley Hospice, commented, "As a Community Benefit Organization, the board members and staff of Valley Hospice believe that everyone in our community deserves excellent end-of-life care regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay for care."
Valley Hospice serves residents in seven full counties (Hancock, Brooke, Ohio, Marshall, Jefferson, Harrison and Belmont) and parts of two other counties (Columbiana and Monroe).
The fund can be used to cover unreimbursed expenses for care provided by nurses and aides and for services such as medical equipment. "It's a huge service," Hladek said. "People don't want to think about this, (but) it's part of life."
The agency provides end-of-life care to people who are still in their own homes and to residents of nursing homes and personal care homes. Valley Hospice also operates an in-patient hospice facility, Liza's Place, adjacent to Mount St. Joseph outside Wheeling. Liza's Place opened five years ago.
Hladek knows first-hand the level of attention and the quality of nurturing offered at Liza's Place because her father was a patient there a few years ago. "The care was unbelievable," she said.
"It really means a lot," Hladek said. "I hear story after story of people that we help. Life circumstances have left them without resources."
For those individuals and families, Valley Hospice provides "that spiritual place of peace, honor, respect for human life," Hladek observed.
Hladek related that a few days ago, a Valley Hospice employee came to her and shared her own family's experience of being helped through the unfunded care program. The employee said her father, who had lost his job because of an injury and was receiving workers' compensation, developed cancer a couple of years ago. The family went into a panic because they did not have the resources to pay for his care.
"Valley Hospice came in and cared for him during that stage of his illness," the employee told Hladek. The staff member expressed her gratitude "to be able to have that and to work for a company that does this."
Jennifer Taylor of Wheeling also attests to the care given to her dying uncle at Liza's Place. She stated, "Despite the fact that he had no way to pay for Valley Hospice care, he was welcomed with open arms. We arrived to find an 'angel' wiping his face. He looked so peaceful, so much more like the uncle we knew and loved. We thanked her for what she had done and she said, 'It was my honor.' It was such a profound statement and it set the tone for our experience with Valley Hospice ... The people who cared for him were not just good at their job, they were heaven sent."
Taylor commented, "The people of Valley Hospice do the work that many of us could not do, and they do it with grace and compassion. My uncle arrived at Liza's Place with nothing, but was given everything."
To generate money for the unfunded care program and to raise area residents' spirits, Valley Hospice is holding a Dueling Pianos event at Undo's West, 51130 National Road, St. Clairsville, on Friday, March 28. Cocktails will be available at 5:30 p.m. and dinner will be served at 6:30 p.m. The show, performed by a national touring group called 176 Keys Fun Pianos, will begin at 8 p.m.
Reservations are required for the event. To make a reservation or become a sponsor, call Valley Hospice at 740-859-5650 or 877-HOSPICE.
The theme for the evening is "Springtime in Paris." Hladek, who has seen the 176 Keys Fun Pianos team perform out of the area, said the event is designed to inspire guests "to smile and laugh and rejoice in life."
In addition to raising funds, organizers hope that the event will increase public awareness of the services available and will offer "a joyful celebration" to the community, Hladek said.
Bougher said, "Our Dueling Pianos event will give those who attend the opportunity to partner with Valley Hospice to help ensure that everyone, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay for care, can experience the exceptional end-of-life care that only Valley Hospice can provide."
One of the ways in which people feel joy is through music, Hladek said, so having a Dueling Pianos event seemed like a natural fit for the occasion.
Bougher agreed, saying, "I promise you that everyone who attends will have a remarkably good time."
A "very casual" atmosphere is planned for the evening, and organizers encourage guests to wear casual attire, Hladek emphasized. "It will be a relaxed, happy, joyful event," she said.
Valley Hospice's board of trustees and its foundation's board of directors are providing support for the event. The Dueling Pianos committee members are Terriann Bonfini, Bougher, Nancy Green, Hladek, Joyce Jefferson, Karen Padden, Kim Parker (public relations coordinator), Melissa Rataiczak, Joan Stamp, Andrea Stoll (vice president of access and clinical care) and Taylor.
Major sponsors of the event are Moundsville Pharmacy and Capstone Holding Co.
Eiffel Tower sponsors are WesBanco, Belmont Savings Bank, Undo's, Ohio Valley Medical Center and East Ohio Regional Hospital.
Arc De Triomphe sponsors are the Health Plan, John and Rita Dutton, Huntington Insurance, Danny and Cheryl Taylor and Wise Hospice Options.
Notre Dame Cathedral sponsors are Dinsmore & Shohl, Main Street Bank, Premier Bank & Trust, Riesbeck Food Markets, Green & Associates Surveying, Mike and Debbie Gordon, David and Cynthia Bougher, Ohio River Collieries Co., Carol and Walter Austin and Drs. Rick and Carol Greco.