Today is Radio Day for hospice

SARANAC LAKE – Coping with the death of a loved one is never easy, and that’s where hospice care comes in.

High Peaks Hospice and Palliative Care provides a range of services to patients who have been given six months or less to live by a physician.

The organization relies heavily upon its 150 trained volunteers and 100 part-time volunteers to serve people throughout its region, which encompasses 5,500 square miles or about 10 percent of the state.

It costs money to provide those services, so High Peaks Hospice is holding its 22nd annual High Peaks Hospice Radio Day from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. today. The goal is to raise $55,000.

“Some people feel that hospice is people waiting around and waiting for someone to die,” said High Peaks Hospice Director of Development Darsie Townsend. “Quite honestly, the opposite is the truth. It’s about adding life to the days people have.”

Comfort for everyone involved, including the patient’s loved ones, is a hospice provider’s priority.

“We deal with the physical pain first, to make people live most comfortably; then we ask people what they would like,” Townsend said. “How do you envision the next few days, weeks or months of your life?”

Townsend said everyone has a different wish for their last days, and the volunteers do everything they can to make it happen. Some people just want to be home, while others want to enjoy one last adventure. High Peaks Hospice has even been contacted by other hospice providers to assist in giving a patient from outside the area one last look at the Adirondacks.

Townsend said the comfort hospice offers can extend someone’s life. Sometimes people are taken off hospice services, but patients can also be recertified after six months if their health is continuing to decline.

While someone is receiving hospice care, the provider works closely with the family and the patient’s doctors to take care of some of the less personal aspects of death, such as insurance and billing for medical equipment and medicine.

“The goal is to let them enjoy the time they have with each other,” Townsend said.

Hospice services don’t have to end when the patient dies. A bereavement program can offer support for 13 months after the patient’s death. The program continues for more than a year to help the grieving get through significant annual events like holidays, anniversaries and birthdays.

“Everybody grieves differently,” Townsend said. “You want to help them get past all of those anniversaries, because those are the hardest pieces.”

Townsend said no one is turned away based on inability to pay, but training volunteers, gas reimbursement for staff and providing services costs money, so fundraising is necessary to keep High Peaks Hospice going.

Radio Day gives people an easy way to donate money, and it offers incentives to donors.

A variety of gifts, all donated by local businesses, are offered to donors throughout the day. They include Adirondack chairs, massages, gift certificates, passes to The Wild Center nature museum and the Adirondack Museum, and rounds of golf at the Saranac Inn and Craig Wood golf courses.

Those who donate $275 or more will be entered into a raffle to win an iPad Air, two round-trip tickets on Cape Air between Saranac Lake and Boston, a two-night stay for two at Great Camp Sagamore or a condo for a week worldwide.

Time Warner Cable will provide live, all-day television coverage of the event on channels 2 and 22, and several on-air hosts will broadcast live throughout the day, including Ted Morgan, Nicole Lewis and Jim LaValley.

LaValley will begin broadcasting at 6 a.m. from the Redfield Board Room at Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake. Broadcasting will continue there until 8 p.m., but LaValley will visit the L.P. Quinn Elementary School in Tupper Lake around noon for a look at how the students there have raised money.

“For two hours the kids come in, and they present money that they’ve raised and turn it over to hospice,” LaValley said. “The manner in which they’ve raised it is always very entertaining. It ranges from doing a raffle to just going around and looking for loose change around the house. It’s a highlight of the day because kids say the darndest things. The format with the kids is that there is no format.”

LaValley, who has roots in radio, has been involved with the fundraiser for more than 20 years. He decided this year will be his last.

“I think it’s time to pass the torch,” LaValley said. “At this point, I think there are probably some other voices that could step up and keep the thing going with the kids. It just feels like the right time for me to allow that to happen.”

Contact Shaun Kittle at 891-2600 ext. 25 or