It has been my privilege to serve EEH as a volunteer and Board member for the past four years. When I was in clinical practice, physicians often struggled with end of life issues before hospice care became available. Comfort care and dignity in death for terminally ill patients were not the things we learned about in medical school. All too often dying peacefully and pain free at home with professional help was rarely considered.
The hospice concept changed that paradigm and EEH become a local healthcare service dedicated to those principles. At first with home care services and then with the region’s only dedicated hospice facility, the Kanas Center for Hospice Care, EEH expanded. It now provides bereavement counseling for adults and children, equine therapy, pastoral care and a wonderful weeklong summer day camp for bereaved children aged four to seventeen. Our dedicated professional staff, nurses, social workers, counselors, therapists, aides, and many selfless volunteers have made EEH a valuable health care resource for residents of the East End.
As a volunteer, Camp Good Grief has been the most rewarding aspect of my work. We serve children who have prematurely lost a parent or loved one to things that should not happen, yet unfortunately do— tragic things like accidental deaths, suicides, murder, drug overdoses, or illnesses such as cancer and heart attacks. These children often arrive at camp frightened, lonely, withdrawn, and sullen, but with a singular shared experience. They feel isolated and different from their playmates and peers at school.
However, after a week of structured activities, counseling, fun and games, they bond with kindred spirits, form new relationships, and come to know that they are not alone in the world. Our hope is that they gain a new perspective on life and will continue to enhance their coping skills by utilizing our ancillary support services. Although one week at camp cannot cure the pain of grief, the personal satisfaction for me was to see the children arrive at camp with pursed lip frowns and skeptical stares, only to leave with brighter eyes and smiles—and a promise to come back again next year.
We appreciate the ongoing generous support of our local communities. None of what we do is possible without you.
Alan N. DeCarlo, MD joined East End Hospice’s volunteer program in 2015. He is an active Camp Good Grief Group Captain, Kanas Center and Thrift Shop volunteer and member of East End Hospice’s Board of Directors. Alan also sits on EEH’s Finance and Performance Improvement committees. His wife, Laura, is an EEH Gala Committee member. Support Alan, our volunteers and staff; give to EEH’s COVID-19 Response Fund click here