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Grant allows Adventist St. Thomas Hospice to offer overnight grief camp

Thanks to a grant awarded by The Moyer Foundation, Adventist St. Thomas Hospice will offer a free overnight camp experience to children and teens grieving the death of someone close to them.

Camp Erin® Chicago, in partnership with Adventist St. Thomas Hospice, will take place for the first time this October. Grief professionals and trained volunteers facilitate the weekend, which combines high-energy and traditional camp activities with grief support and education. The camp will be open to about 50 children and teens from ages 6 to 17 and held at Camp Duncan in Ingleside, Ill.

“Camp Erin Chicago is a tremendous opportunity for us to reach out and support bereaved kids,” said Heather Kochen, bereavement coordinator for Adventist St. Thomas Hospice. “The overnight stay will give participants a unique opportunity to bond with others experiencing similar losses.”

Thanks to a 10-year, $100,000 grant from The Moyer Foundation, Camp Erin Chicago will allow Adventist St. Thomas Hospice to expand services it already provides grieving young people. Throughout the year, the hospice offers a Tommy’s Kids Support Group, and each summer, it runs Tommy’s Kids Summer Camp, a week-long day camp for children ages 5 to 12 who have experienced a loss.

“Many times in the past, people have told us they wished we had an overnight option for their children,” Kochen said. “Up until now, it has not been possible. Thanks to The Moyer Foundation, our ability to serve grieving families has been greatly expanded.”

Camp Erin Chicago is part of the largest national network of bereavement camps in the country and was established by The Moyer Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by World Series Champion pitcher and former Chicago Cub Jamie Moyer and his wife Karen. The Moyer Foundation partners with health care and bereavement organizations in local communities to help fund, develop and grow Camp Erin nationwide.

Those interested in finding out more about bereavement programs offered by Adventist St. Thomas Hospice can contact Kochen at (630) 856-6985. For information on supporting childhood bereavement camp programs, click here.

2013 Tommy's Kids Summer Camp

Our eighth annual Tommy’s Kids Summer Camp took place during this past June and as is customary, both campers, staff, counselors and volunteers had an extraordinary time. The camp has evolved into a perfect combination of fun and healing, providing love, support, friendship and answers to grieving children.

Many individuals don’t realize and respect the special way that children grieve the lost of a significant person in their life and so more often than not, children develop complicated grief issues that follow them as they grow up. At camp, we seek to stop this trend in its tracks through open discussions about each child’s personal grief experience, group discussions where normalization of experiences can be shared and education on healthy ways to process one’s grief. In the midst of all this talk….we also manage to have fun...a lot of fun!

Throughout the week campers participated in various craft projects such as decorating quilt squares and canvas bags, building birdhouses and a mosaic activity! There was also plenty of time for fun and games that included a tidal wave water slide, a water balloon toss, sports games, a super slide, a bounce house, a cupcake walk, miniature golf, a petting zoo, scavenger hunts and fishing. For many it was their first time ever fishing and to be able to share in that experience with them was very special.

We are looking forward to supporting our next round of children already for next year which will take place June 16th- 20th, 2014. So be sure to mark your calendars! For information about volunteering at camp or registering a child please contact our camp director, Heather Kochen at 630.856.6985 or

Adventist St. Thomas Brings Some Good Old Fashioned Fun to the The Birches Assisted Living Facility in Clarendon Hills.

On a perfect, sunny summer afternoon in June, Ed Partyka, chaplain at Adventist St. Thomas Hospice, was joined by a dozen or more of his classic car club colleagues at The Birches Assisted Living Facility in Clarendon Hills to put on a car show for the residents, their families, the staff and the overall surrounding community.

Hospice patient Norbert Zajac, a classic car owner & enthusiast, was one of the attendees of the classic car show. Ed, Mr. Zajac’s chaplain, knew of his love of classic cars and extended an invitation for him to attend. Ed even arranged for one of his colleagues to bring his 1929 Ford Tudor in Mr. Zajac’s honor - the same model Mr. Zajac owns.

Mr. Zajac, while not a resident at the Birches, was happy to attend along with his daughter, Chris. Ed and Mr. Zajac plan to go visit the latter's baby, his 1930 Ford Tudor very soon.

Pictured are Mr. Zajac, his daughter Chris, & Ed Partyka next to a blue 1929 Ford Tutor that is nearly identical to Mr. Zajac’s 1930 Tudor.

Adventist St. Thomas Hospice & The Birches have enjoyed a wonderful relationship sharing in the care of their residents for many years & partner on multiple events including car shows, memorials, and professional and community educational offerings. St. Thomas is honored to serve their residents, families and staff!

25% of our patient care volunteers are living our mission of Extending the Healing Ministry of Christ as Ministers of Care.

A Minister of Care is an individual who has taken extra coursework in spiritual matters and is able to offer spiritual support (in some cases communion) and can offer quiet prayer for those who request such services.

Learn more about our volunteer services.


St. Thomas Volunteers Use Pet Therapy to Help Heal

As a volunteer at Adventist St. Thomas Hospice, Jennifer Voss knows the power a four-legged, best friend can have on a patient.  Through pet therapy she and her two Labrador Retrievers, Tex and Gus, have aided numerous patients with limited life expectancy. 

Pet Therapy

“I have volunteered in pet therapy twice a week for nine years,” said Voss, who resides in Hinsdale.  “I started doing this because I realized how big of an impact a pet can have on a person’s life and I wanted to give that same joy to people in need.”

Pet therapy uses certified cats and dogs as volunteers to aid the disabled, elderly and patients in hospice care.  Not only can pet therapy brighten a patient’s day, but it has also been shown to increase pain tolerance, lower blood pressure and reduce stress.  Voss said it is useful in the hospice setting for patients who have withdrawn from the people around them but find interaction with an animal less painful. 

“Pet therapy is great because they allow patients to find a distraction and relax,” Voss said. “Dogs don’t judge patients when their hair falls out or they have tubes down their throats.”

Voss said both of her dogs have been registered through the Delta Society’s Pet Partners program, which trains volunteers and their pets for pet therapy programs in hospitals, nursing homes and hospice centers.  The animals must be retested every two years to make sure they can handle loud noises, abrupt movements and changes of atmosphere.  Every animal must be calm and accepting of strangers and other animals. 

“Pet therapy is great because it is allows patients to take their minds off their pain as they sit and talk to the dogs,” Voss said.  “When the patients see Tex and Gus, it brings a smile to their faces and can change their entire day.  It is an extremely powerful and worthwhile experience.”

Barb Zerby, volunteer coordinator at Adventist St. Thomas Hospice, said pet therapy greatly improves the spirits of many of the patients.  She said the volunteers are a huge asset to the hospice program. 

“Pet therapy is a wonderful part of our volunteer services,” Zerby said.  “Our pet volunteers help us provide friendship and compassionate, holistic care to our patients and their families.”

Adventist St. Thomas Hospice, 119 E. Ogden Ave, Hinsdale, is part of Adventist Hinsdale Hospital. Certified by Medicare and accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, Adventist St. Thomas Hospice serves patients and families in DuPage, eastern Kane, northern Will and western Cook counties. For more information, call (630) 856-6990.