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Agrace HospiceCare News

Local businesses partner to help grieving children

As reported by Jason Busch in In Business Magazine

When a loved one dies, a lot of attention naturally goes toward that individual — honoring their life and ensuring their end-of-life intentions are fulfilled.

Survivors can become an afterthought, especially children who might seem like they’re okay but only because they haven’t yet learned how to understand and properly cope with death.

Grieving Activity BookA new resource is now being made available locally to children who are grieving and learning to cope with the loss of a loved one through a partnership between National Guardian Life Insurance Company (NGL) and Thysse Printing Service. Through their collaboration, Agrace Hospice and Palliative Care received 500 copies of When Someone Dies: A Child-Caregiver Activity Book created by the National Alliance for Grieving Children.

According to Maria Lubick, corporate communications specialist for NGL, the National Alliance for Grieving Children collaborated with grief experts, grief centers, and children’s hospitals to gather ideas and/or activities to create the book, which is designed to provide a space where children can remember their loved one who died, identify their own strengths, and connect with their caregiver about grief.

“The activity book provides children and their caregivers with opportunities to interact in positive, healthy ways, while still acknowledging their grief and how to cope with the changes after the loss of someone they love,” says Lubick. “It is an activity book that children can work on alone or with their caregivers. Each activity has suggestions for the caregiver on how they can help children who are grieving. Each child has their own way to cope with grief, so every activity will impact children differently.”

The activity book is filled with pages for bereaved children to draw pictures, play games, and map their feelings. It is designed to guide them as they remember their loved one, learn about the concept of loss and grief, and realize that it’s okay to be happy again.

“My father passed away when I was 12 years old,” notes JJ Giese, sales and marketing at Thysse Printing. “I still vividly remember a lot of downtime while my mother sorted out important details and my brother and I wondered what would happen next. While this activity book will initially help by passing awkward minutes, coping with a myriad of emotions, and working bravely toward a new normal, I expect a high percentage will be maintained as keepsakes.”

The book is divided into five sections:

  • Understanding death and remembering with ritual
  • What is grief like?
  • My support … how I cope with grief
  • Grief at school and with friends
  • Special days and remembering my special person

Lubick says some of the activities including in the book are:

  • Favorite things — This activity allows children to write down their favorite activities and the favorite activities of the person who died. It helps a child identify with person who died, but know that they should still be themselves. It is an opportunity to talk with the child about what makes them unique, and allows the caregiver to plan activities around the child’s favorite things to help develop a strong, trusting relationship.
  • Remembering your person — Memories are a way to stay to connected, but they can also be difficult. On one side of the page the child is asked to draw or list memories that are difficult for them to think about. On the other side of the page the child is asked to draw favorite memories of their person. This activity helps the child remember their best times alongside the unpleasant times — the funeral or watching their person’s illness progress, etc. — and opens the channels of communication between the child and caregiver.
  • A map of grief — This make believe adventure game allows children to follow a map and label their grief in areas, including volcano of anger, sea of tears, great fog of forgetting, island of loneliness, and more. Because children often express their grief through play, they can draw and write on the colorful map to create their own adventure.

“Losing a loved one is difficult at any age,” notes Jill Muenich, vice president of marketing services at NGL. “I can’t imagine how challenging it is for someone who doesn’t fully understand the concept of death. When I learned that more than 300 kids each year have had someone they love at Agrace, I knew this book could greatly benefit them.

“Our company believes in giving back to help people in our community,” Muenich continues. “I’m pleased that NGL could partner with Thysse Printing and that our efforts will make a difference during a difficult time in a child’s life.”

Agrace Hospice and Palliative Care has already started utilizing the children’s activity books to encourage discussion after the loss of a loved one. The activity books will be used in all of Agrace’s service areas — now 11 counties in southern Wisconsin.

“In addition to providing hospice and palliative care to patients, Agrace also provides free grief support to anyone who is grieving the death of a loved one,” explains Cheri Milton, community grief support specialist at Agrace Hospice and Palliative Care. “This support is free and available to any community member whether or not the deceased was an Agrace patient. This child/parent grief workbook is an excellent resource and will be helpful to many. We are so thankful to NGL and Thysse Printing for their generous donation that enables us to offer this resource to those in need.”

In conjunction to offsetting half of the cost for printing the books, NGL donated $2,500 to National Alliance for Grieving Children to produce copies of the book. Resources and educational opportunities are available through the National Alliance for Grieving Children for anyone who is supporting grieving children and teens.

Organizations interested in learning more about the activity book or how they can print copies can go to National Alliance for Grieving Children at or contact CEO Andy McNiel at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Reserve Butterflies for Agrace Memorial by May 27

JANESVILLE, Wis. – Over the years, many people who believe in Agrace’s mission have asked for a way to contribute to Agrace that also allows them to honor a family member or friend. The Agrace Center for Hospice & Palliative Care at 2901 N. Wright Road in Janesville has a Butterfly Memorial with beautifully designed iron trellises installed in the gardens—for just this purpose.

ButterflyThose who wish to may purchase a personalized butterfly for the Agrace Butterfly Memorial to honor or memorialize someone special. Each engraved butterfly will add beauty to one of the decorative trellises, bringing comfort to those who visit Agrace’s gardens. At the same time, the financial gift to Agrace helps bring care and support to Agrace patients and families facing the difficult challenges of a life-limiting illness. 

Butterflies may be purchased online at, and orders must be received by May 27, 2016, to be dedicated in 2016. On Sunday, June 26, a Butterfly Dedication Ceremony will be held to honor those butterflies added this year. Butterflies purchased this year will be displayed for two years and then returned as a keepsake.

If you have questions about the Agrace Butterfly Memorial, please visit or call Lisa Dahlgren at (608) 314-2927.

An Exciting New Partnership

On April 19, 2016, Agrace announced an exciting new affiliation with two major Madison-area health systems: UW Health and UnityPoint Health.

Here are highlights of the new partnership:

  • The goal of this affiliation is to enhance each organization’s ability to effectively serve the end-of-life needs of people in southern Wisconsin.
  • This affiliation will focus on improving patients’ care throughout their health care journey, which is clearly in keeping with Agrace’s mission and vision.Agrace’s expertise will help these health systems meet the needs of their patients, who increasingly want high-quality hospice care as an option at the end of life.
  • Agrace’s patients will benefit from the increasing collaboration and the exchange of quality information between us and our two health system partners.UW Health and UnityPoint are committing to let Agrace lead the way in hospice and palliative care in the communities we serve by collaborating, rather than competing.
  • Agrace remains 100% independent and nonprofit. We are not merging, being “bought” or otherwise becoming financially tied to our new partners.
  • We maintain our current name, staff, volunteers and a community-based board.
  • The Agrace Foundation will continue to serve only Agrace, and we will continue to rely on support from community donors.
  • Agrace will continue to welcome patients referred by all area doctors and health systems, not just from our new affiliates.
  • We continue to be a choice for everyone in southern Wisconsin who is struggling with serious illness, including patients from Dean clinics, St. Mary’s hospitals in Madison and Janesville, and St. Clare Hospital in Baraboo.
  • UW Health and UnityPoint doctors can refer patients to other hospices, but only Agrace will collaborate with these health systems on a strategic level to
    develop innovative ways to integrate palliative care and hospice into patient care.

Former Madison heart surgeon finds life in teaching

As reported by NBC 15 on April 13, 2016

MADISON, Wis. -- A former Madison heart surgeon finds new life after retirement teaching medical students at the UW-Madison.

Doctor Louis Bernhardt worked as a heart surgeon in Madison, mainly at St. Mary's hospital, from 1971 to 2004, when he retired.

Since then, he has been teaching courses at the UW-Madison medical school. It's the same school he graduated from in 1963.

"It keeps me busy. I try to stay young, I wake up every morning so I've got some place to go," Dr. Bernhardt says.

He says he's committed to helping students prepare for a career in the medical field. He can offer them a lifetime of advice.


"Know your audience. Take ownership. Communicate with the patient not the computer. Those are a few," Dr. Bernhardt says.

Dr. Bernhardt says it's likely he'll never retire. He says he hopes to keep inspiring the next generation of doctors as he was inspired through his career.

"I get very attached to the students I teach and I feel that they're making progress in the world," Dr. Bernhardt says.

In addition to working as a teacher at the UW, Dr. Bernhardt works with several charities and outreach programs. He sits on the board for Agrace Hospice which provides care and resources for people at the end of life.


Brenda Gonzalez Joins Agrace as Diversity Manager

MADISON, Wis. – Agrace has hired Brenda Gonzalez as diversity manager. Agrace is Wisconsin’s largest nonprofit palliative care and hospice agency, providing end-of-life care and related services to people in southern Wisconsin communities for 38 years.

As diversity maBrenda standing webnager, Gonzalez will work to implement strategies for Agrace to improve access to diverse and underserved patients and assist the agency in ensuring that its staff and volunteer workforce reflects the diversity of the communities served by Agrace. Gonzalez will also oversee Agrace’s minority Certified Nursing Assistant and Emergency Medical Technician scholarship programs for graduating high school seniors and non-traditional students.

Gonzalez previously served on the Agrace Foundation’s board of directors. She joins Agrace from Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin (GHC-SCW), where she served as community marketing and health equity manager. During her time there, Gonzalez engaged organizations as well as individuals to reach out to those impacted by health insurance disparities.

Prior to GHC-SCW, Gonzalez was at UW School of Medicine and Public Health, The Benton Foundation, and Dean Health System. She has more than 20 years’ experience collaborating in the Madison community helping people navigate the complexities of our health care system, especially among linguistically and financially isolated communities.

“Brenda brings to the diversity manager role a passion for engaging our area’s Latino Community while also making sure we understand all of our diverse partners’ needs,” said Marcia Whittington, chief development officer for Agrace. “In this role, Brenda will help drive Agrace’s efforts to address the racial, ethnic cultural and socioeconomic disparities that impact access to hospice and palliative care in the communities we serve.”

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