Dealing with a terminal illness can be the most difficult thing a person will ever have to face, whether it be their own, or that of a loved one. Over the past 40 years or so, more and more medical professionals have begun to acknowledge the importance of helping terminally ill patients and their families come to terms with dying, as well as to allow the patient to pass with dignity.
Twin Falls native Allison Carter discovered that many patients and residents had a great deal of remorse and regret when looking back over their lives. Allison began helping to grant small final wishes in her spare time, and dreamed of beginning a foundation where those dealing with a terminal illness could spend their last days in a manner that would enable them to look back on their lives with no regrets.
In November 2010, Allison’s dream became a reality as the No Regrets Foundation began. Bearing the motto “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened,” No Regrets is a non-profit organization that provides free services to anyone 18 or older that has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. The foundation partners with hospitals, churches, hospice agencies, physicians, and many other volunteers to help grant a dying wish.
No Regrets began in Boise, and through word-of-mouth and social networking, things began moving quickly. Within days of launching the website, Allison was inundated with nearly 1,500 calls and e-mails from doctors, lawyers, stay-at-home moms, a movie theater owner, and a pilot wanting to help with time, money and services.
Within a few weeks of starting the foundation, Allison was contacted by former Twin Falls High School classmate Lisa Douda, who, among others, was excited about the foundation and its vision. Allison attributes Facebook to the rapid success and expansion of the foundation. She is also grateful to Lisa for bringing the foundation to her hometown and says she has been “phenomenal” with getting the Twin Falls branch up and running.
For Lisa, helping to grant the wishes of the dying is a calling she didn’t realize she had until the loss of her own father. Lisa says in the Magic Valley there is a huge need for terminally ill adults who fall into loopholes of the system. Many do not qualify for federal programs such as Medicare or Medicaid, yet they can’t afford to take advantage of services such as hospice or home health. This was the case with Lisa’s family and she says, “I want to make sure nobody else has to go through that.”
The foundation hopes to obtain the support of all types of people from all walks of life. According to Lisa, a big misconception among the public is that they only need people from the medical or health industry, or that volunteers will have to commit a large portion of their time. As Lisa points out, “Everybody has a talent; everybody has a way that they can contribute.” If people want to help, yet don’t feel comfortable working with the families one-on-one, there are many other ways they can help, such as cooking meals, etc.
The final wishes of those facing death have varied greatly so far, and have often been simple things, says Allison. “One gentleman wanted fresh baked cookies, so we made fresh baked cookies.” Allison says most of the requests have been centered on family, such as going fishing with family one last time, flying relatives in to see grandma, or riding a bike once more. “Everything’s been so humble.” Lisa adds it is important for volunteers to understand that help does not have to come in the form of huge extravagant gestures.
In its beginning stages in southern Idaho, the Twin Falls branch is currently putting together a board so they can begin work right away on granting wishes. Lisa says as soon as the board is organized, they will begin granting local wishes as allowed by the services and donations available. The second step, then, will be to apply for grants to help with larger wishes and to help even more people. Lisa says a golf tournament is being planned for this summer to help with fundraising efforts. Lisa also hopes to help raise awareness in the community about services such as hospice, pet therapy and more.
As a non-profit organization, all wishes are made possible by those willing to donate time, money, products and services. And the reward, says Allison, is great. “Every time one of the wishes comes true and I see that person happy, it’s just amazing.” Allison feels that it helps the family and friends of a terminally ill patient as well. She says that during a difficult time like this, “Everyone wants to help. This last wish gives the family an opportunity to participate in making that person happy before they go, which I think will help with the grieving process.” This is a sentiment shared wholeheartedly by her colleague. “It is the biggest honor that could be bestowed on you when someone asks you to be involved with their last minutes.”
To become involved with the foundation by volunteering or donating, or if you know someone in southern Idaho with a terminal illness who would benefit from a final wish, contact Lisa Douda at 208-944-2272 or visit the No Regrets Website at www.NoRegrets.vpweb.com. No Regrets has branches in Boise, Twin Falls, San Francisco and the Vancouver/Portland area. If you or someone you know is interested in starting a branch in another area, e-mail Allison Carter at firstname.lastname@example.org for an information packet.
Twin Falls Students Help Raise Money for No Regrets Foundation
Twin Falls High School art teacher Camille Johnson and her students are helping raise funds for the No Regrets foundation with a little homegrown creativity. A portion of the proceeds of these unique “Soul Prints” will go to the foundation to aid in granting wishes. The pendants are made by pressing a ball of clay to the sole of a shoe, which creates the unique texture. The clay is then painted and fired. Mugs and bowls will also be available.
Pendants $15 • Mugs $20 • Bowls $25
To purchase an art piece, visit http://www.noregretsfoundation.org or contact Camille Johnson at email@example.com or 208-410-3779