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MONROE — Regional Hospice and Palliative Care (RHPC) was the beneficiary of a lot of love from more than 150 attendees and an inspiring keynote speaker who attended the Newtown Giving Circle’s 29th Annual Summer Breakfast at The Waterview June 13.
As the early morning sunshine poured into the dining area through its floor-to-ceiling windows, Newtown Giving Circle Co-Chairs Marg Studley and Marie Sturdevant welcomed everyone seated at the 35-plus tables spread out across the banquet floor.
At the start of the ceremony, the Newtown Police Department Honor Guard — Officers William Chapman, Matt Hayes, Richard Monckton, and Benjamin Mulhall — entered the room single file and stood at attention with the American flag raised for the Pledge of Allegiance.
Reverend Matthew Crebbin from the Newtown Congregational Church gave the invocation, saying, “Loving God, whose ways are not our ways, we pray for all people who do not know what tomorrow brings. Please wrap your loving arms around them and give them comfort in knowing your peace and your love.”
He prayed to God to bless the families of those struggling and for all the compassionate healthcare professionals, chaplains, administrators, and staff who continue to serve in the hospice industry.
RHPC President/CEO Cynthia E. Roy spoke briefly, following Rev Crebbin’s prayer, to express her sincere gratitude for the Giving Circle’s Newtown chapter with its “wonderful volunteers.”
According to the fundraiser’s brochure, in addition to Ms Studley and Ms Sturdevant, the 2018 Newtown Giving Circle members include Marilyn Alexander, Ellyn Gehrett, Colleen Honan, Janet Hovious, Terri-Ann Martocci, Linda Trentacosta, and Laurie Wrabel.
Over at Table 12, RHPC volunteers from Newtown — Larry O’Toole, Paget Haylon, Roseanne Loring, and Jim Loring — were gathered to show their support for the organization they care so deeply for. Each have been volunteering with RHPC since the Danbury facility opened in February 2015.
“I was drawn to [helping RHPC], because I wanted to do something with meaning and value,” Mr O’Toole said.
‘Grateful For Regional Hospice’
After breakfast was served, Ms Studley returned to the podium to introduce the event’s keynote speaker, Donald Smith, saying, “We are honored to have General Smith with us on this eve of Flag Day to share his commitment to our country, our community, and our organization.”
As Mr Smith, a military veteran and retired sheriff from Putnam, N.Y., made his way to the front of the room, he held a packet in his hands with images of his wife of 43-years, Jane Smith, on its cover.
He explained that the reason he was speaking to everyone today was that his beloved wife fought a courageous battle against breast cancer that ended in Regional Hospice back in 2015.
“I had a storybook marriage…” Mr Smith said. “She was the love of my life. She was more than just a wife — she was my soulmate.”
In 2013, when Jane was diagnosed with breast cancer, she underwent a double mastectomy and did chemotherapy to stop the cancer.
“We did everything we could to save Jane, so she could be with us through our senior years,” Mr Smith said.
Unfortunately, the cancer spread to her head and, after undergoing treatments, she had a stroke. The family continued to be optimistic that she would make a recovery, but they soon learned that she only had a short time left with them. Even with his background as an army officer and a career in law enforcement, Mr Smith said, “I was not prepared when death came on our door in such a personal way.”
When the doctor gave him Jane’s final diagnosis, he had a hard time accepting it. So much so, he refused to say the word “hospice,” because in his mind that meant giving up — which was unthinkable.
Feeling alone, confused, and not knowing how to cope, the family sought help at a hospice in New York, but were turned town. When they found Regional Hospice, he says, it was an answer to their prayers.
“It’s a beautiful, caring place — a place full of love,” Ms Smith said. “I cherished every minute that I had with Jane, and I can tell you that [Regional] Hospice could not have been more wonderful to me.”
The two weeks that Jane lived there, they allowed him to stay in the room with her and made sure that when he went to sleep at night, his pillow was where he could see her. He was also able to fulfill his work responsibilities there and have his grandchildren visit and enjoy the onsite play area.
“I know how much she loved the people at the Hospice, [including] all of her caregivers, because on the morning before she died, I remember her — still conscious — mouthing ‘thank you’ to all her caregivers,” Mr Smith said, with emotion in his voice.
On what would be Jane’s last night, he felt exhausted and had fallen asleep holding his wife’s hand but was woken by the caregivers there who knew he would want to be awake for her final hours on earth.
“I’m very, very grateful for regional hospice,” Mr Smith said, thanking Ms Roy, the staff, volunteers, and the Giving Circles.
Not only did they care for his wife and let her “pass in a loving, dignified manner,” but they were there for him and his entire family. Regional Hospice made such a lasting impact on his life that he decided to volunteer his time on its Board of Directors.
With not a dry eye in the audience, members of the Newtown Giving Circle thanked Mr Smith for sharing his heartfelt story and concluded the ceremony with the raffle drawing portion of the fundraiser.
Raffle donors listed in the event’s brochure included Avancé Day Spa, Bagel Delight, Brushworks, Butcher’s Best Country Market, Café Xpresso, Caraluzzi’s Market, Cork ‘N Barrell Farmhouse Restaurant, Fashion Exchange, Ferris Acres Creamery, Floral Designs by Melissa, Klickers Hair Studio, Kristine Beckman, Joanne’s Fitness Studio, J.P. Maguire Associates, Lions Bleecker Street Pizza, The Martocci Family, McGuire’s Ale House, My Place, Newtown Color Center, Newtown Car Care, Newtown Country Club, Newtown Florist, Newtown Nails, Newtown Salt Spa, Nick’s Chilled and Distilled, Nina Nail Spa, Dot O’Byrne, Planter’s Choice, Ricci’s Salon, Sal e Pepe, Spadaccino and Leo P. Gallagher and Son, The Toy Tree, The Trentacosta’s, and UK Gourmet.