Inspired by a leather journal given as a gift from his daughters, Gary LeRoy, MD,…
Karlee Plozay is named for her great-grandfather, Carl Winkle. Unfortunately, she never got to meet him. He lost his life to cancer before she was born. He was cared for by Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton, and in some ways, hospice has played a role in Karlee’s life ever since.
Karlee was born shortly after her great-grandfather passed, and helped fill the empty hole his loss left in her great-grandmother, Patricia’s, heart. Karlee and her great-grandmother were very close, so the passing of her great-grandmother was the first major loss of Karlee’s young life. Karlee learned on her eighth birthday that her great-grandmother had died. “I was so sad and it hurt so much because I spent so much time with her,” Karlee remembers. “My grandma said I should think about going to Camp Pathways grief camp.”
She did. Karlee spent a weekend with other children who had lost loved ones, having the usual fun of campfires, swimming, arts and crafts. Camp Pathways also includes opportunities to express grief and strategies children can use to cope with their sadness. The experience had a huge impact on Karlee, enabling her to express her grief and discover new ways to deal with it. “I went to Camp and learned how to deal with death even though it is very sad and hard,” Karlee explains. “This is why hospice is so important to me.”
Karlee turned eleven this summer. She asked for no gifts for herself. All she wanted for her birthday was a chance to make a difference in the lives of others. She found the perfect opportunity in a project for hospice.
Those who come to the Hospice House at Dayton have the opportunity to memorialize a loved one by taking home a seedling plant to remind them of their loved one. Volunteers hand decorate the pots used for the seedlings.
“For my birthday party, I chose to help others by painting the flower pots for hospice with my friends instead of receiving gifts,” Karlee explains. “I feel like giving is more important than receiving, and making someone else smile is the best gift I could ever be given.”
Karlee invited all her friends in the neighborhood to a painting party. Working together they brightly painted and decorated pots that will be used by grieving families to hold plant starters bearing memories of loved ones no longer here.
“When I go to the Hospice House it reminds me of a big house with lots of bedrooms,” Karlee says. “I know the people that are in those beds are not in pain anymore because of the people at hospice. They take really good care of them.”
Each seedling pot touches the lives of five people, from patients and family to staff and volunteers. “Karlee had an absolute blast, and as a result, she and her friends will touch almost 1,000 lives,” her mother, Sara, explains. “She amazes me. I am pretty proud of her.”
Those interested in supporting the mission of Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton through volunteer service or projects can click here for more information or contact the volunteer department at (937) 256-9507 x 1161.