Story and Photography By Sandra Chambers

The inaugural “Closer to Home” Golf Classic, held May 6 at the Cape Fear National Golf Course at Brunswick Forest, was the first major fund-raising event to benefit the building of a hospice care center in Brunswick County.

Susan Desloge and Lorri Shipston, co-chairs for the “Closer to Home” Golf Classic, reported that 19 sponsored teams participated in the tournament. Although no one claimed the prize (a car) for a hole-in-one, six teams won cash prizes for first, second and third places in two flights. In addition, there were prizes for the longest drive and a putting contest. An awards ceremony with live entertainment, a silent auction and dinner followed the event.

The $11,000 raised by the tournament will go toward the $3.5 million needed to build a hospice care center in Brunswick County.

“The State of North Carolina has awarded a Certificate of Need to Lower Cape Fear Hospice & LifeCareCenter to build a hospice facility in Brunswick County,” says Cindy Cheatham, Development Manager for the “Closer to Home” Capital Campaign. “We hope to begin the construction of a seven- bed care center in 2012.”

Plans for the Brunswick Hospice Care Center include seven private patient and family suites, open courtyard gardens, a living room, a solace room, a kitchen and dining room, and laundry rooms.

“We call the campaign ‘Closer to Home’ because right now families in Brunswick County who need hospice care centers are having to drive a long way to the Wilmington center or the Angel House in Whiteville,” Cheatham points out. “This campaign name will keep the message out there in the community that we need a care center closer to home.”

“We’re grateful for the outpouring of community and business support and testimony in favor of our certificate of need,” says Lower Cape Fear Hospice & LifeCareCenter President and CEO Laurie Bystrom. “We anticipate it will continue as we raise funds for the facility.”

Currently $900,000 in gifts, donations and pledges have been raised, with many opportunities for organizations, businesses and individuals to donate money and time.

So far, 30 volunteers have completed the 18-hour training to become hospice volunteers in Brunswick County and help make the dream become a reality. Lorri Shipston, one of the current volunteers, says the reason she became involved in hospice was because of her mom, who was serviced by hospice over a year ago.

“It really made an impact on my life,” says Shipston. “When we left the day my mother died, I asked the ladies to tell me what they needed. Their response was, ‘We need a care center in Brunswick County.’”

It wasn’t long after, that Shipston was introduced to Cheatham, the “Closer to Home” Campaign Manager, who asked Shipston if she knew Louie Lewis.

“I got a big smile on my face,” says Shipston, “because he is a second cousin.” To make a long story short, Shipston and her sister Sandra Tyner visited Lewis and talked to him about the need for land for the Brunswick care center. As a result, Lewis donated 7.35 acres located off Old Ocean Highway near the new Brunswick Novant Medical Center.

Many others who participated in the first annual “Closer to Home” Golf Classic also have first-hand experience with hospice care. Mark and Craig Fincannon (of Fincannon and Associates Casting Agency), along with their dad, Clyde Fincannon, and Stacy Wells, Craig’s father-in-law, formed one of the winning teams.

“Our participation in this fund- raising event is personal and special to us,” Mark says. “We’re here in honor of my mother who passed away eleven months ago. Hospice loved on her, was in constant contact, and helped us as a family. Her birthday was on Monday, and with Mother’s Day coming up, we had a desire to use the resources we have to help this community. We believe many people will be blessed through the new Brunswick Hospice Care Center.”

Art and Patsy Wilband were excited to play the course and support a great cause.

“This is important to us because we moved to Rivers Edge in Shallotte three years ago, so we have a great interest in what’s going on here in the community,” says Art.

“We thought it was an excellent fund-raiser and really wanted to support it,” Patsy adds. “We personally know a lot of people who are dealing with cancer.”

Cheatham says plans are already in the works for a second annual Golf Classic next June 16 to draw community members together, not only for a good time, but to support a great cause.

What is Hospice?

The Lower Cape Fear Hospice was founded 30 years ago in Wilmington by Dr. Daniel Gottovi, a local physician. Their first patient, a 27-year-old nurse, was admitted on July 1, 1980. Since then the organization has served 19,000 patients through its in-home hospice and palliative care programs, and more than 5,000 patients in its two hospice care centers in Wilmington and Whiteville.

Hospice is not a place but a special kind of care that focuses on life quality, serving patients with compassion, understanding, kindness, dignity and privacy, making it possible for them to live their lives to the fullest each day.

Although hospice originally served only patients with a cancer diagnosis, the organization now helps people with other life-limiting illnesses such as end-stage lung, heart and kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, Lou Gehrig’s disease, dementias, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and strokes.

Hospice team members partner with patients’ physicians to help with patient treatment for pain and symptoms, optimize resources, listen to their concerns and help patients and their family members deal with important end-of-life decisions.

Hospice costs are covered by Medicare, Medicaid and by most insurance programs and HMOs.

Hospice also offers grief support for family members of hospice patients, for children through in-school and after- school programs, individual counseling and summer camps for grieving children.

Education is also a large part of the organization’s focus. Seminars and conferences on end-of-life topics are available to the community through their Outreach Department.

Lower Cape Fear Hospice & LifeCareCenter is a nonprofit, 501(c) (3) tax-exempt organization governed by a volunteer board of directors and is an affiliate of New Hanover Heath Network.

For more info on the “Closer to Home” Project, visit . To volunteer, contact Becky long, Volunteer Coordinator at (910) 796-7900. To make a donation, call Laurie Taylor, VP of Fund Development at (910) 796-7944 or Cindy Cheatham at (910) 796-7985.