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Compassionate program grants Unity Hospice patients one final wish

Updated: Jun. 7, 2021 at 4:15 PM CDT
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DE PERE, Wis. (WBAY) - Compassion, honor and dignity, all key ingredients of a unique program offered by non-profit Unity Hospice.

All this week on Action 2 News at 4:00, we’re going to show you the incredible impact Unity’s Gifted Wishes program is having in communities across Northeast Wisconsin and how you can support it.

Headquartered on 34 beautiful acres overlooking De Pere, Unity holds the unique distinction as a true pioneer in end-of-life care.

“We were the first health care, hospice health care program in Wisconsin in 1977, so the third in the nation,” says Megan Van Deurzen, Unity Development Manager.

Along with the area’s first hospice residence, which opened in 2007, Unity’s reach is far and wide, caring for an average of 1,000 patients at any given time.

“We serve patients in 13 counties in Northeast Wisconsin, with that being palliative care, hospice home care and we also offer grief services,” says Van Deurzen.

Over the last couple of years, Unity’s dedicated staff of nurses and social workers started brainstorming an idea.

“We saw a need when talking to patients and families about something that we could do to brighten their day,” explains Van Deurzen.

Thanks to a grant from the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation, Unity launched its Gifted Wishes program last summer.

“Typically we ask questions to the patients and families on what is an activity that you could see yourself doing with your family, what would bring a happy memory or make you smile at this time, and then our staff come back and we try and figure out how to make that wish happen,” says Van Deurzen.

Thanks to the generous support from individual donors and businesses, Unity has been able to grant a wide range of wishes over the past year.

“We have been able to grant wishes such as a favorite meal, a keepsake item such as a necklace with a fingerprint on it. We have also been able to bring family members to the community who are distant relatives that can come see that patient one last time,” says Van Deurzen.

A set of photos capture Sharon’s final wish before she passed away: a stay at the Grand Hotel with a massage.

And family portraits were Margarita’s wish to leave behind for her husband and son.

“The photo session was a huge success in that it brought a lot of happy tears for that family that was able to have these long-lasting photos to remember their mom by,” recalls Van Deurzen.

As we’ll explain throughout this week, most of the wishes are simple, not elaborate, but they mean the world to the patients and their families who are overwhelmed with gratitude.

“Sometimes those little wishes mean the most to these patients and just helping them create those memories is phenomenal, it’s a great thing that we can do for them. The end-of-life process is very difficult and we just want to provide them with those happy, long-lasting memories as best we can, and show that compassion and strength and support,” says Van Deurzen.

For more information about Gifted Wishes, and to learn how to contribute, visit https://unityhospice.org/giftedwishes/

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