The Elf Squad is hard at work | Positive vibes

Seasonal chills encourage us to snuggle up close to those we care about. Since November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, it’s also about today’s treat.

“The focus is… to see each day as an individual gift and we will do everything we can to make that day the best day possible,” said Katherine Knoble Capital Caring Health (CCH), Director of Volunteering and Community Engagement.

CCH is a regional hospice agency that cares for thousands of patients every day and has been going strong since 1977. It is also one of the few hospice agencies in the US with a dedicated pediatric team.

From the moment a child is diagnosed, CCH is there to support families. They offer hospice and palliative care for children with advanced illnesses. “Hospice is not just about the patient… Hospice is about the whole family,” Knoble said.

“This wouldn’t happen without volunteers,” he said. “These are people who are not being paid and who are doing heavy emotional work and doing it from the heart.”

One of them is the president of the Pediatric Volunteer Committee (PVC), Joanne Canellos. After losing her father to cancer while in college and caring for her family members over the years, Canellos always wanted to volunteer at a hospice.

The PVC organizes initiatives to celebrate terminally ill kbadges Show up decked out with locally donated cakes and gifts for the whole family on birthdays, holidays and important events. At the end of the year, they assemble the Elf Squad.

A year ago, Knoble’s team conceived of Elf Squad, a culminating effort of the winter gift-giving season. The Elf Squad spends December collecting and wrapping gifts for patients and their families, then delivering them with the help of My Guys Moving.

When the holidays ended last year, they wanted to continue the initiatives and Elf Squad. Knoble asked Canellos, who had volunteered with CCH for a few years, to chair the effort, and PVC was born.

As CCH increased the number of pediatric patients, PVC took off with the possibility of themed giveaways later this year. They activated Elf Squad earlier this season to accommodate a patient whose family was visiting before the holidays to see her son one last time.

“To see them and how grateful they were when they had relatives come to town to say goodbye to their son. [is] one of those moments where, for a split second, you think, ‘how am I doing this?’ After that, you think, ‘how can I do more?’” Canellos said.

“Hospice is a very scary word… If you take that word away and just look… what the volunteers are going out and doing, [patients] they are happy in that moment,” Knoble said. “We can’t change the forecast, but we can and do change that moment.”

Canellos is hosting his second annual Baklava Bonanza fundraiser that will run into the New Year. She raised $3,200 last year and hopes to raise $5,000 this year, with all proceeds going to initiatives for CCH’s pediatric patients. She has raised $____ so far.

Canellos learned about CCH from people he knew who used it. Knoble joined CCH about six years ago after a career in the field. No matter where they come from, “it’s a tight network and you learn to support each other because you’re dealing with loss and families in different situations,” Canellos said.

“We will all experience a loss of some kind at some point in our lives,” Canellos said. “You can receive support through him.” The CCH team hopes that more people know that they can use their services as more than a last resort. “Tends to be an underutilized medium [medical insurance] benefit, but it’s there,” Knoble said.

“We see all these people from all walks of life, religious beliefs, cultures, but what they have in common at the end is that they want that human connection,” Knoble said. “We all really need each other.”

Visit https://www.capitalcaring.org/ or view their Elf Squad wish list at https://bit.ly/3UToHhU to contribute to their holiday gift-giving efforts before their wrapping event on December 3.

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