What's Right: Celebrating birthdays for those in hospice

Kicking off our series What's Right in Your Community...

What started out as a group of west Michigan volunteers wanting to help has now turned into a state-wide program to celebrate birthdays of those on hospice care.

When someone is on hospice it is typically some of their last few months of life. Newschannel 3's Jessica Wheeler went shopping with workers from Hospice Michigan to see for herself how they are brightening up what could be someone's last birthday.

"I had a registered nurse come to me and indicate that one of her patients had a birthday coming up and she wanted to know if there was anything volunteer services could provide," said Kathy Julien, the volunteer services manager at Hospice of Michigan

Julien took the birthday program idea from a nurse and it snow-balled from there. "So I baked a cake and put together a birthday balloon held by a stuffed bear."

Other volunteers made bracelets, cards and blankets. Eventually the birthday program turned into an effort by an entire community to provide gifts to those receiving end of life care.

"I heard about how well that went and so I thought why not make this available of all of our patients? Everybody should have the opportunity to celebrate their birthday," said Julien.

For many it's their final one."They're usually within the last 6 months of life so we are capturing that last birthday," said Julien.

That's where Meijer comes in.

Starting this month the company is providing gift cards to all the Hospice of Michigan offices so all 1,400 patients across the state can have one last celebration.

"It's a feeling of doing something right for someone. It's a warm feeling knowing that we are part of someone's life and it's not even being part of the last birthday it's actually a celebration of life with them," said Gabe Ensenat, Meijer Store director.

We had the opportunity to shop with Kathy for 2 patients. She picked out special cakes just for them, along with flowers and balloons.

She tells us the birthday celebrations go beyond the patients, giving their families one last happy memory to hold on to.

"To have the family pull together and celebrate and recall special memories and have the loved ones there I think it lessens that fear of what's going to take place," said Julien.