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Together When It Matters: Lake Delton Couple Reunited for Last Hours at Agrace

Al & Janet Schmidt

Al and Janet Schmidt met as teenage neighbors in Milwaukee, married in 1953 and spent the next 63+ years together—including their final hours at Agrace.

A husband and wife who have been together since they met as teens shouldn’t be apart in their final days. But that was happening to Lake Delton residents Janet and Al Schmidt this past July—until Agrace brought them back together.

Al was hospitalized in Baraboo. He had endured chronic pain for years from a 1997 auto accident. Janet had been his caregiver through those tough times, but in late July, a sudden illness left her gravely ill. She was admitted to Agrace’s hospice inpatient unit in Madison for comfort care.

For both Al and Janet to be so ill was a tremendous shock for their family, who was shuttling back and forth between the hospital and Agrace.

Agrace RN Meghan Zakaouanou was in Baraboo August 1, helping to enroll Al, when she learned Janet was nearing death. She explains, “I knew there was a plan to bring the two together, but he needed to be transferred as soon as possible—to be with his wife before she died.  We worked together with the social worker and doctor to coordinate an ambulance transfer within 90 minutes. When I told Al he was going to see ‘Mama,’ he smiled and showed an immediate sense of relief.”

When Al arrived at Agrace, he settled into an extra large room, and then Janet was brought in. He was able to hold his wife’s hand for a few hours until she died, with their family by their side. Agrace then focused on making him comfortable until he died two days later.

“We truly believe that Mom was hanging on for Dad, to ensure he was safe,” their daughter, Deb Meyer, says. “Knowing they were able to hold hands during her final hours not only put them at peace, it made this whole situation more bearable for our family. What we witnessed that afternoon will remain in our hearts forever. The gift you give daily is priceless.”


Teaming with Children’s Hospital Benefits Our Youngest Patients

Traci Raether

Traci Raether

People of every age can have Agrace’s compassionate care. But unlike adults, children (up to age 20) can receive hospice care from Agrace without stopping treatments intended to cure their illness. For that reason, our youngest patients are often also under the care of the American Family Children’s Hospital (AFCH) in Madison.

As children go back and forth from home to hospital—from one set of caregivers to another—keeping everyone current is a challenge, says Traci Raether, director of clinical services–home care for Agrace. That’s why she is leading our efforts to partner more closely with the AFCH Pediatric Palliative Care Team. Over the past two years, the Agrace/AFCH partnership has helped our young patients’ many caregivers communicate better with one another—and coordinate care more effectively.

“There’s nothing like direct nurse-to-nurse communication,” Traci explains. “We’re there with the hospital team, in the patient’s home. We have conferences so we’re on the same page. That leads to better quality of care.”

Hard decisions are inevitable when a child is dying. Agrace helps make sure the patient’s and family’s goals are a priority as those decisions are made, Traci says. “During these tough cases, it’s great that the two groups of caregivers can support each other professionally and emotionally.”

As the number of children receiving hospice rises, more Agrace nurses are pursuing advanced training in pediatric palliative and hospice care. They can now spend days at AFCH, immersed in the pediatric care experience.

“This partnership is about our mission,” Traci concludes. “We streamline the communication, make recommendations about each child’s care and support their parents at a point when time 
is precious. The effort we put into it makes life easier for these families ”

You can read about the Heller family’s experience with pediatric hospice care. This year, our Light Up a Life campaign is raising funds to benefit several programs that support children, like our pediatric care partnership and the new Agrace Grief Support Center. Your gift of any size will help!

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Agrace Volunteers Needed in Key Communities

2017 Volunteer VisitsAgrace’s 950+ valued volunteers live in more than 60 cities and towns across southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. We are able to provide high-quality care because our volunteers have dedicated themselves to making their communities stronger and better!

Agrace volunteers visit with patients at our Madison and Janesville inpatient units, provide caregiver relief for patients’ families, sit vigil with actively dying patients, raise funds by working at our Thrift stores, care for our gardens and help staff with special events and administrative projects.

As our patient census grows, Agrace has immediate openings for volunteers in key service areas, including Janesville, Madison, Baraboo and Rockford. If you feel this calling, contact us at (608) 327-7163 or visit agrace.org/volunteer to begin your journey as an Agrace volunteer today.


Ceremony Celebrates Opening of Agrace Grief Support Center

Agrace Grief Center Ribbon Cutting

Fitchburg Mayor Jason Gonzalez (center) and representatives from the Fitchburg Chamber joined Agrace Community Grief Specialists Cheri Milton and Jessie Shiveler, President & CEO Lynne Sexten and Chief Development Officer Marcia Whittington in September for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Agrace Grief Support Center.

More than two years in the making, the September 14 grand opening of the Agrace Grief Support Center was a cause for joy. As people throughout southern Wisconsin hear about this unique resource, they’re relieved to find a place dedicated to the support they need.

Agrace community grief specialist Cheri Milton says, “I recently met with a professor whose longtime partner had died in August. As we walked into the Center’s counseling room, she immediately teared up. She told me how amazing and safe it felt to see the actual word ‘grief’ on the front door.”

Thanks to everyone who helped make this new center a welcoming place for all grieving people. The Center is located at 2906 Marketplace Drive, Fitchburg.


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 learn about these and other groups offered in 2018.


Auto Raffle Raises $36,000+ to Support Agrace

Dave Kruger (right), winner of a new 2017 Honda Civic, poses with Kendall Dahmen, general manager at Zimbrick Honda, and Tracy Buglass, Agrace development manager.

Three lucky Agrace supporters became winners in the 2017 Agrace Auto Raffle fundraiser. Ticket sales for this very successful event brought in $36,850 to fund programs that serve patients and their families.

Dave Kruger, an Agrace supporter, won a 2017 Honda Civic donated by Zimbrick Honda. The winner of $1,000 was Brandon Polensk, a frequent Agrace Thrift Store donor. Glo Theisenan, an Agrace volunteer, won $250.

The raffle is possible only with the support of our presenting sponsor, Zimbrick Honda; featured sponsor, Cost Cutters; and supporting sponsors Adams Outdoor Advertising, Madison Mallards, Mid-West Family Marketing and the Wisconsin State Journal. Thank you!


Race for Agrace raises $30,000 for Care for All

The staff-organized Race for Agrace on September 17 was wildly successful. More than 500 runners/walkers helped us raise $30,000 for Care for All. Save the date for Race for Agrace 2018: Sunday, September 16, at Agrace in Fitchburg.

Butterfly Gala Raises $120,000 for Agrace

The Edgewater in Madison was filled with love and support for Agrace on October 28 as nearly 300 Butterfly Gala guests helped raise $120,000 for the Agrace Foundation. Cocktails and gourmet dining were followed by a vibrant live auction and moving “fund-a-need” appeal, as well as our popular Chrysalis After Party—with live music and a scrumptious dessert and coffee bar. Gala proceeds help ensure that every person in our community who needs hospice and palliative care can receive our services—even if they cannot pay. Visit us on Facebook for more photos from this delightful evening.


Join us for Sips & Sounds + Suds—Delicious Fun for Agrace Supporters

wine tasting fundraiserSips & Sounds 2018 is just around the corner! Join us for our 17th annual wine and beer tasting event March 3, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., at the Pontiac Convention Center in Janesville.

You’ll enjoy a marvelous evening sampling hors d’oeuvres from area restaurants, plus exquisite wines and craft beers, most with Wisconsin origins or local ties. Why not round up a few friends who’d relish the chance to rub elbows with wine enthusiasts, brewers, and local restaurant owners and chefs? It’s a great opportunity to mingle, nibble and sip while you take in live music from Gary the Band.

Silent and live auctions, raffle drawings and a very popular wine pull make this a night to celebrate—all to support patients and families served by Agrace. You can register online now or call (608) 314-2927, Monday through Friday. Advance tickets are just $60 (a smart savings!), or get yours at the door on March 3 for $75. Cheers!


Could you spare a bear, or crochet for comfort?

Girl cuddling Dori Bear & Comfort Shawl with tagWhen Agrace patients or their families need an extra measure of comfort, Agrace helps—because of generous community donations. If you can spare a toy bear, or knit/crochet a shawl, we could use your help!

All year long, we take donations of new stuffed toy bears that are at least 10 inches tall. Whether for a patient or a young family member, hugging a “Dori Bear” is a welcome relief in very stressful times. We also accept donations of crocheted or knitted Comfort Shawls and lap blankets. Soft, colorful shawls bring warmth to our patients year-round. The pattern is simple—but the result is remarkable.

Read more about donating teddy bears or creating a Comfort Shawl, or call (608) 327-7147.