‘Fun’raising for Hospice House

December 6, 2013

Kim Lamoreax, Capital Newspapers


Home Health United Hospice volunteer Darlene Otto told an audience of about 500 people about her friend Rose Hammermeister who, at 63 years old, was diagnosed with cancer.

Hammermeister spent her final days at St. Clare Hospice House, and passed away on Dec. 20.

"Her kids were working full-time jobs, had their own families and were taking care of Rose at home," Otto said from her place at the podium in the Wilderness Conference Center in Wisconsin Dells. "Rose was bound and determined to stay home. But her family was worn out. I talked to them about the Hospice House. All these eight years we’ve been working on this event, and I actually had a friend use the house. And since then I’ve had several friends pass away at the house. It’s a wonderful place to have your last days."

The Hammermeister family was being honored as part of the eighth gala fundraising and awareness event, Spirit of Life, for the St. Clare Hospice House in Baraboo.

Each year the house exceeds its funding helping families who need a place for their loved one to go in their final days of illness.

That night, the group exceeded all previous Spirit of Life fundraising efforts by bringing in more than $45,000.

"There were a lot of over bids on auction items because so many believe in this cause," said Pam Godfrey, Home Health United Visiting Nurse Foundation operations manager.

Even with a topic as somber as terminal illness, Home Health United, its volunteers, staff and hundreds of supporters know how to throw a party while helping their favorite cause.

Professional entertainers Greg and Karen DeSanto served as emcees for the evening, hamming it up for the camera, hosting a "Let’s Make a Deal" game and honoring the many donors of the evening is some rather creative ways.

DeSanto made her way into the crowd during the evening being carried on a paddle board donated by Lake Delton Watersports as the crowd cheered.

In typical "Let’s Make a Deal" fashion, the DeSantos asked audience members to produce items from their purse or pockets, such as an iPad, a coupon, a nail clipper, a quarter and, in one instance, asked for a picture of someone’s grandmother.

An audience member rushed the stage with a picture of Karen DeSanto.

"Very funny," Karen said amid the laughter.

But amid the slapstick, folks shared their stories about what hospice services and the Hospice House mean to them.

Six years ago, Baraboo resident and Spirit of Life committee member Carole Paquette’s mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

"It was six weeks from diagnosis until she passed away," Paquette said. "She passed away at Hospice House. It was a phenomenal experience. I’ve been a hospice volunteer ever since."

About seven years ago after Judy Spencer’s husband died from esophageal cancer, she and her friends, cancer survivors Kevin Schell and Kathy Johnson participated in and raised funds for Relay for Life.

But the three wanted to take a more local focus in helping those who find themselves on the long journey that comes with a cancer diagnosis.

They formed SJS Cancer support team, a Baraboo-based nonprofit organization that helps people who have a family member with cancer.

"It was hard to ask people for donations the way the economy was, so that’s why we decided to keep the funds local," Spencer said.

The group does everything from giving families $200 for gas and expenses, to once donating $10,000 to Relay for Life.

At the Spirit of Life event, SJS donated $6,000 to the Hospice House.

Other smaller projects help fund Hospice House as well.

Karen Kothbauer, a loan officer at Baraboo National Bank, said her office held a "Casual for a Cause Day" and everyone got to wear jeans to work one Friday if they contributed $5.

They raised $400 that day.

"This cause is awesome," Kothbauer said. "It’s heartfelt. The prizes are (at the Spirit of Life) are awesome because anyone that comes to this is generous for a reason. A lot of people who come to this have had an experience with hospice. But a lot of people don’t know there is a Hospice House until they have to deal with it. This helps to let people know it’s there. The Hospice House is often full. Even though you’re going through a horrible time, these people will help."