In 20 years, the Trinity Hospice Ball has raised thousands to help people cope with the process of dying, but more importantly it has provided a few hours of fun for those affected by loss.
"The ball is about honoring those who have died, but also celebrating life. It's to send a clear message that life goes on, and that life is to be celebrated," said Nadine Schlienz, clinical manager of the Paula J. Baber Hospice Home.
The annual ball has become a big hit; around 400 people usually attend. However, it didn't start out that way.
"That first ball was during a blizzard. We were expecting 100 people, and about 15 to 20 showed up," said Schlienz. "I'm surprised we even had a second ball. But it's been growing every year. Now, people start asking about when we're having the next ball the minute that one ball is over. The ball is always on the first Saturday in February."
The Feb. 4 ball raises funds for the hospice home and in-home care.
Co-chairs of the ball this year are Jim and Anita Burr, and Dr. Dan and Sheila Cole. Cole is one of the doctors who originally brought hospice care to Fort Dodge.
Trinity Hospice Ball
WHERE: Best Western Starlite Village Inn & Suites
WHEN: Feb 4; Social hour 6 p.m., Dinner 7 p.m., followed by program and dance
TICKETS: $40 a person until Jan. 27, then $50 a person. Tickets may be purchased by sending a check to Trinity Health Foundation, 802 Kenyon Road, Fort Dodge, IA 50501 marked to the attention of Hospice Ball. Include your name and phone number. Names will be on a list at the Starlite.
Co-chairs: Jim and Anita Burr, and Dr. Dan and Shelia Cole.
For more information: Call Trinity Health Foundation, 574-6509.
"It's a fun evening; we get to see a lot of the patients' families," he said. "We all enjoy getting together at the ball, to show our appreciation."
The ball begins with a social hour at 6 p.m. at the Best Western Starlite Village Inn & Suites, followed by dinner at 7 p.m. and a program, said Carol Grannon of the Trinity Health Foundation.
"There will be a video to recognize people who have died this year, and then we will present the Debbie Hofbauer Compassionate Caregiver Award to one of our workers who shows outstanding care," she said. "The award was established by Hofbauer's family in 2009 after she passed away from cancer."
According to the Trinity Pacesetter magazine, Hofbauer was the first patient to enter the Paula J. Baber Hospice Home and the first patient to die in the home.
After the program, there will be dancing to a DJ. Ongoing throughout the night will be a silent auction. There will be two raffles, one from Hy-Vee and one for quilts. Prizes include a $500 Hy-Vee gift certificate, a $100 meat bundle and a $300 Casey's General Store gift card.
"We have a queen-sized quilt designed and quilted by Cindy Kaufman and donated by the Fort Dodge Quilting Association," Grannon said. "There is also a lap blanket donated by Susie Stafford in memory of her father."
Grannon said the net amount of money raised by last year's ball was $32,500. That's more than $3,000 more than in 2010.
The ball is not only a time to celebrate, but it is also a time for families to connect with caregivers.
"More and more families are coming to the ball; it can be therapeutic," Schlienz said. "A woman came up to me in tears last year. Her husband had died that fall, and she said, 'thank you for encouraging me to come'. It was hard, but she was so glad she came, because it was also very healing."
In hospice, said Grannon, the goal is more than care.
"Our goal is to make people comfortable," Grannon said. "We help them celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, baptisms, even weddings are not uncommon. We make it fun for them, get them the cake, flowers, balloons, things not in our budget."
"The response from the community is always very humbling. After people experience hospice, they want to help us any way they can."
The hospice program has been in Fort Dodge for 30 years.
"I think hospice's greatest asset for our community is that it brings peace and comfort to people in their last chapter here on earth," Schlienz said. "In the typical world of aggressive medicine, you avoid death at all costs. People coming from that into our hospice home say it feels like a complete difference."
"Hospice staff and personnel look at death as a natural part of life; we know that we'll all come to this line in the sand someday."
"It takes a big person to realize that you can't cure everybody," said Cole. "When we see someone pass away in hospice, it's very rewarding to see all of the love in families, all the love we can help promote."
Contact Joe Sutter at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org