Our “Hospice Heroes” program launch is underway. Hospice Heroes is a community of individuals, families, and school, church or service groups across Northern Ohio who host fundraising activities that help our agency provide care to all who need it, regardless of their ability to pay. Each month we will be sharing an inspirational story about one of our Hospice Heroes. This blog focuses on one of our Hospice Heroes that’s making a meaningful difference to pediatric patients.
1996 was a life changing year for the Viccarone family. Sherri Viccarone’s teenage daughter, Misty, was diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor. Misty was cared for by Hospice of the Western Reserve’s Pediatric Palliative Care team during her final stage of her life. Hospice helped with Misty’s medical supplies, medicine, physical and psychological therapies, and also supported Sherri and the family by providing emotional and spiritual support. The Hospice team also gave Misty an unexpected gift.
One day, a hospice team member asked Misty if there was one wish she would like to have granted before she died. Her response was a surprise to everyone: “I want my stepdad to adopt me.” Her stepfather was the only father she had known as she was growing up and this was something that meant a lot to her. Within just ten days, Hospice of the Western Reserve’s legal team worked with a Cleveland judge to grant Misty’s wish to be legally adopted.
When Misty died in late July, her mother wanted to tell her story to help others. Sherri acknowledges that having a child diagnosed with a terminal illness is something that no parent can ever anticipate or be equipped to deal with. However, being able to create something positive from this tragic circumstance was something Sherri was determined to do.
Sherri and her family kept Misty’s memory alive by donating Misty Bears (teddy bears) to children receiving treatment for childhood illnesses. In 2010 Sherri took it a step further. She and a dedicated group of family and friends expanded on their initial idea of hosting a commemorative fundraiser with bowling, raffles and prizes. They called the event “Misty’s Wish,” a reference to the final wish that Hospice of the Western Reserve helped fulfill. An important part of Sherri’s mission is helping other parents and caregivers by expanding awareness of pediatric palliative care.
On the 15th anniversary of Misty’s passing, Misty’s Wish became the celebration the family envisioned. The sold out event truly celebrated Misty’s life. They were able to raise over $5,000 and donated it to Hospice of the Western Reserve’s Pediatric Palliative Care program to help other children with a serious illness. It was so successful that the group decided to make it an annual event. Last year’s event, held at Yorktown Lanes in Parma Hts., generated an incredible $8,600. For the Viccarone family, Misty’s Wish is more than a successful fundraiser; it’s a new tradition that makes July 27th a day of celebration.
“When I first tell people about the mission of Misty’s Wish, they’re sometimes shocked and surprised,” said Sherri. “There’s a misconception that hospice care is only for the elderly. In fact, a co-worker who even knew Misty had died of a brain tumor asked me why there was a need for a pediatric hospice team. My answer was simple: `because children die.’”
Thanks to the love and dedication of Misty’s family and friends, her memory lives on and will continue to help others.
Hospice Heroes is a program that supports and celebrates the passion of all who help sustain the mission of Hospice of the Western Reserve in their communities. To learn more about the amazing things our Hospice Heroes are doing and the stories that inspired them, visit hospicewr.org/hospiceheroes. Joining Hospice Heroes is free; e-mail email@example.com to receive your application.
The Soul’s Journey: Stories from the Heart of Hospice is home to inspirational stories from patients, families, team members and the community. For many, healing is in the telling – share your story today.
Hospice of the Western Reserve provides palliative end-of-life care, caregiver support and bereavement services throughout Northern Ohio. In celebration of the individual worth of each life, we strive to relieve suffering, enhance comfort, promote quality of life, foster choice in end-of-life care and support effective grieving.