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Living for the First Day of School

Mitch First Day of School

Agrace helped Mitch reach his goal—seeing his son off to kindergarten.

Mitch Viren grew up in Rockford and married Holly, a neighbor he’d met in sixth grade. In 2012 they had a son, named Harrison. But when Harrison was just a baby, Mitch was diagnosed as having acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. 

Over the next couple of years, Mitch tried multiple curative treatments. But in late 2016, his doctors at University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison suggested it was time for hospice, and they referred him to Agrace. 

“We could have said, ‘We don’t need hospice. We’ll just wing it,’” Holly says, “But I don’t think we’d have been able to live as much as we wanted to.”

Agrace’s Rockford-based hospice team began to visit Mitch at home in late 2016. “They were very caring,” Holly remembers. “I could have somebody on the phone immediately. That gave me a lot of confidence as his caregiver—to know that it wasn’t just me, but that I had a whole team behind me, rooting for us and giving us instructions when we needed them.”

“Erika, our fantastic nurse, really took time to explain. I relied heavily on her when things were troubling me,” Holly adds. “And our social worker let us share our feelings and gave us feedback about how to cope.” 

As time grew short, Mitch’s biggest goal was to see Harrison go to his first day of school in August. Holly explains, “That morning, we had help from Cain (another Agrace nurse), to get Mitch out of bed and to the car so we could go to the bus stop and see Harrison off to school. We wouldn’t have been able to do that without Agrace.”

It happened just in time: Mitch died three days later. 

Looking back, Holly says, “I’m most thankful for their support for me as a caregiver, to have the education to relate to what my husband was going through. The support Agrace offers—to more than the patient—was immeasurable. We were very lucky to have Agrace as our hospice!”


Former VP Joe Biden Visits Agrace

Dean and Joe Biden

Mr. Biden with patient Dean

On Sunday, December 10, 2017, former Vice President Joe Biden visited with patients and staff at Agrace in Madison. The visit stemmed from a letter Agrace sent to Mr. Biden in 2015. It was about a kitchen volunteer, Ed Minihan, who was donating 1,000 hours in honor of the VP’s son, Beau, who had recently died of cancer. When Mr. Biden’s book tour brought him to Madison, he visited Agrace to meet our generous volunteer, “Chef Ed.”

Mr. Biden connected with everyone he encountered at Agrace, and as he was preparing to leave, a young girl quietly approached and asked if he would visit her best friend’s dad, Dean, who was losing his battle with cancer.

When the VP walked into Dean’s room, a bright smile took over Dean’s face. He was nearing death, but clearly knew who he was meeting. As Sunday turned into Monday, Dean took his final breaths.

In her grief, Dean’s wife later wrote to us: “What an honor to meet Joe Biden! Dean was an admirer and a lifelong political junkie. We were so pleased he was kind enough to pause for us. We are deeply grateful to Agrace. You truly walk the walk. We will always remember.” 


You Could Win a New 2018 Honda Civic!

Auto Raffle 2017The 2018 Agrace Auto Raffle gives you three chances to win! In addition to our first prize, a 2018 Honda Civic LX, we’re giving away prizes of $1,000 and $250. Tickets are $10 each, and only 4,500 will be sold.

Ticket sales start May 25 at the World’s Largest Brat Fest in Madison and continue until all 4,500 tickets are sold, or until the prize drawing August 4. For details, visit winthecivic.org.

This fundraiser for Agrace is made possible by our presenting sponsor, Zimbrick Honda, and featured sponsor, Cost Cutters Family Hair Salon.

Thank you!


Golf ‘Fore’ the Love of Agrace

Like to golf? Love Agrace? Join us June 19 in Wisconsin Dells for a fun day of golf at the award-winning Trappers Turn Golf Club. This outing features a shotgun start, boxed lunch, games on the course, a fun “pick-your-prize” raffle and post-golf reception back at the clubhouse.

When you sponsor or participate, you are helping to fund programs financially supported by the Agrace Foundation, such as:

  • Agrace’s Care for All program,
  • educational opportunities for CNAs,
  • a program that develops our staff’s expertise in pediatric hospice and palliative care,
  • our new free standing Grief Support Center, and
  • our diversity scholarship program.

Please consider taking a day to play for such a great purpose! Register now.


Enthusiastic Volunteers Needed in Janesville

Chris and Rick Wilson

Chris Wilson volunteers alongside his dad,
Rick, to give back to his community.

His main job is pricing and hanging clothing, but Chris Wilson also brightens the lives of everyone he meets at the Agrace Thrift Store. Chris has volunteered at our Janesville location for nearly two years, logging nearly 100 hours. 

Because Chris has Down syndrome, his dad, Rick, volunteers with him. Chris’s mom, Sue, is an Agrace volunteer who has sewn and donated more than 2,000 patient gowns. She and Rick think it’s important for Chris to be active in his community. They want others to have a chance to meet him and grow comfortable with his diverse abilities. For his part, Chris says, “I like volunteering. It keeps me moving!”

If, like the Wilsons, you’re a fan of Agrace, here are six ways you could help as a volunteer in the Janesville area:

  1. Sort and price donations, research pricing for valuable donations and operate the cash register at the Agrace Thrift Store.
  2. Become a companionship volunteer—visit with patients in their homes and at the Agrace Center for Hospice & Palliative Care in Janesville. 
  3. Tend the gardens at our Janesville campus: Choose a regular, seasonal role or a one-time gig of spring clean-up, planting or weeding (individuals and groups are welcome). 
  4. Take your pet therapy dog to visit patients.
  5. Share your music or art abilities with patients.
  6. Help patients maintain their dignity with a fresh haircut or hairstyling (must have a cosmetology license).

To learn more or get started, please call Agrace’s Volunteer Services Team at (608) 314-2922 or click here.


Dr. MJ Shah Named VP of Medical Services

MJ ShahDr. MJ Shah was named vice president of medical services for Agrace in late January. She joined Agrace in 2015 as a hospice & palliative physician, and has 12 years’ experience in hospice and palliative care. Fellowship-trained in geriatrics and palliative medicine, Dr. Shah held positions in and near Rochester, N.Y. before moving to Madison with her family.

“Dr. Shah has done a wonderful job taking on informal leadership roles for our Medical Services Team,” says Lynne Sexten, Agrace CEO. “After interviewing candidates from across the Unites States, we realized the very best person for the job was already in our midst.”


2017 Year in Review

2017 Year in Review Infographic


Upcoming Grief Support Groups

Agrace grief support groups are open to anyone who is grieving, even if their loved one did not have hospice care. Visit our Grief Support Group page or call (608) 327-7118 to register or learn about these and other upcoming groups.


Upcoming Events

Proceeds of these events benefit patients and families served by Agrace. For details about any Agrace fundraiser, click here or call (800) 553-4289.