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Early Christmas gift brings tears of joy and laughter to hospice volunteers

Nancymarie Arsenault, executive director of Hospice P.E.I., reflects on palliative care. “Palliative care is very much about living,” she said. “We celebrate birth and life, and death is very much a part of this cycle. We shouldn’t be afraid to talk about death.”
Nancymarie Arsenault, executive director of Hospice P.E.I., reflects on palliative care. “Palliative care is very much about living,” she said. “We celebrate birth and life, and death is very much a part of this cycle. We shouldn’t be afraid to talk about death.” - Desiree Anstey

‘Theme of the Feast Dinner Theatre Christmas show really reflects the work we do’

SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. - Sometimes the most heartfelt gifts are the ones that come as a complete surprise.

And, on Thursday night, more than 30 Hospice P.E.I. volunteers who work tirelessly throughout the year without expecting anything in return saw their kindness reflected back to them in the form of a Christmas surprise.

“As a non-profit organization we raise money to provide hospice services across the province to those that are living with a life-limiting illness, and of course we would want to spend the money raised on the patients and the clients that use our services,” said Nancymarie Arsenault, executive director of Hospice P.E.I.

Normally the volunteers have a potluck Christmas party, but on Thursday evening they were in for an unexpected treat.

Volunteers and cast pictured left to right: Chris Meaney (cast), Rita Arsenault, Mitchell O’Blenis (cast), Logan Richard (cast), Lisa Arsenault, Olive Moore, Jessica Lewis (cast) Gloria Arsenault, Shirley Doucette, Gayle Hopping, Jocelyn Reynome (cast), Helen McQuaid, Debi MacIsaac, Norma DesRoches, Florence McNeill, and Ann Leard.

“Our East Prince coordinator, Liz Parsons, heard from some of the volunteers that they were tired, so she decided to contact some restaurants to see if we could get a discounted price,” said Arsenault.

Parsons contacted Brothers 2 restaurant in Summerside and got an immediate response from general manager Lindsey Groom. She offered to treat all the hospice volunteers to their latest Feast Dinner Theatre musical comedy called ‘Twas the Night: Christmas in Kandahar.

“They are unsung heroes that work tirelessly throughout the year doing good deeds and we wanted to give back,” said David Groom, owner of Brothers 2 restaurant where the dinner theatre is located.

The musical comedy braided themes of lost loved ones that spoke to the Hospice P.E.I. volunteers, including poignancy and laughter that they often use in the face of hardship.

“Most of all, the volunteers felt appreciated, which was the best Christmas gift I could have hoped for them. We are all so very thankful to Lindsey and the staff at Brothers 2 for making our Hospice Christmas party so special,” said Parsons. “Hospice volunteers are used to doing good without much acknowledgment. It’s part of their role. And, after someone has died, no one would want the family to be concerned about volunteers. They are rightly dealing with their grief as a priority.”

The annual “Let Their Light Shine” Christmas tree fundraiser is often a time when, after a period of healing, family members tell the volunteers what a wonderful difference they made during the stress of losing a loved one, said Parsons.

“But this gift from Brothers 2 was different. It was paying it forward, a gift of generosity in recognition of the volunteers’ quiet generosity with their time and compassion. They felt supported by the community they work so hard to support.”

Long-time previous coordinator, Betty Robertson said, “In the 14 years of hospice we never received anything like this.”

Arsenault, who believes the approach to palliative care is all about living, also said, "The show felt written for our volunteers."

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