(EFFINGHAM, IL) – Randy Seaton of Effingham was very proud of his hometown of Herrick. He loved growing up there and always wanted to fly in a helicopter over the old farm where he was raised. It was one of the things on his “bucket list.” Unfortunately, Seaton was diagnosed with lung cancer, and after a long battle, was admitted to Hospice through HSHS Hospice Southern Illinois, in Effingham.
HSHS Hospice has an Everlasting Memories program for those Hospice patients or their family members who have a last wish for their loved one, but don’t have the financial means to achieve it. Ashley Dillingham, HSHS Hospice Marketing Specialist, explained, “The main goal of the Everlasting Memories program is that granting this wish will give the patient and their loved ones a special moment in one of their last days as well as creating a fond memory for their family members to remember after their loved one has passed on. When we admit new patients to our hospice program, we ask them what is one their ‘bucket’ list to see if there is something that we can do to help fulfill it.” The program is funded through contributions received through the HSHS St. Anthony’s Foundation.
The staff at HSHS Hospice asked Seaton when he was admitted what was on his “bucket list” and he shared his desire to fly over Herrick. Sadly, his health took a quick decline, and he passed away on March 10, 2016. But the staff of HSHS Hospice still wanted to grant Seaton’s wish to his family.
HSHS Hospice contacted Dominique Youakim, a managing member of Aerinova, Inc., a full service Fixed Base Operator (FBO) located at the Coles County Memorial Airport in Mattoon. Aerinova Inc.'s vision and passion is making aviation dreams become reality. So it was a natural fit to request Aerinova’s assistance in fulfilling this wish for the Seaton family. HSHS Hospice was planning on paying for the flight through their program funds, but Youakim graciously donated the flight for the family.
Video of Helicopter Ride
So on January 28, 2017, Youakim flew a helicopter to the Pana Fairgrounds, through arrangements made by HSHS Hospice. Four members of the Seaton family were able to take the flight that Randy Seaton always wanted to take: his wife Julie Seaton, daughters Meagan Ruot and Kristen King, and his sister, Dana Kunkel. The family was able to take Randy with them in spirit: they took a photo of him with them in the helicopter. Following their flight, Youakim was even generous enough to take a second group of family members for a flight over Pana.
In addition to the flight, HSHS Hospice wanted to give the family some time together to reminisce about Randy. So through their Everlasting Memories program, they sponsored a catered luncheon after the flight for approximately 60 family members at the Pana Christian Church and held a balloon launch afterwards.
Video of balloon launch
Following the flight, Meagan Ruot shared about the experience. “The flight was incredible! Having Dad's picture in the front seat of the helicopter with me is a memory that will stay with us forever! He would have had the front seat if he would have been able to take this flight before he passed away, so we wanted to make sure he still had the best view! I have no doubt in my mind that Dad was with us on that flight, grinning ear to ear,” she shared. “Another special memory on the flight was seeing several of our family and friends at the cemetery where Dad is buried, waiting for us to fly by. And of course, flying over the old farm where he grew up was so special. We are all from Herrick and it was awesome to see Herrick from a different view. There are so many memories we have with Dad in Herrick and being able to go on this flight, we were able to relive those memories,” she said.
Dillingham shared why granting wishes like the one given to the Seaton family are so important to HSHS Hospice. “The Everlasting Memories program affirms for our hospice team our mission. The end of life is often a challenging and overwhelming time. Our goal is to provide comfort, care, and dignity to those whose journey has reached this stage,” she said. “To find opportunities for joy; to lift the spirits of those who know the end is near; to provide their families with a space to share their feelings and have a moment to cherish once their loved one is gone.”
On behalf of her family, Ruot shared what the experience meant to her and her family. “For HSHS Hospice to grant us Dad's last wish means everything to our family! Words cannot express how much this means to us,” she said. “As soon as Dad was admitted to hospice, he was interested in this flight. Unfortunately, he wasn't on hospice for 24 hours before he passed away and for them to still grant Dad's wish in honor of him means so much. The last thing on Dad's bucket list became the number one thing on ours. Then to also offer us a luncheon together was definitely a surprise and just goes to show how much HSHS Hospice cares for their patients and their families. The luncheon was just as important as the memory flight because it brings our entire family and friends together in memory of my father and to celebrate his life,” she shared. “We are forever grateful for everything HSHS Hospice and Dominique Youakim has done for our family, even after Dad is no longer with us. We appreciate everything they did to check off the last thing on my father's bucket list!”
The HSHS St. Anthony’s Foundation helps fund the Everlasting Memories Program, through past events such as Glow-INGA and the Butterfly Ball. If anyone would like to make a donation to support the Hospice Everlasting Memories Program, they can contact Michael Wall, Director of Philanthropy, at Ext. 1854, or email Michael.Wall@hshs.org.
For more information about HSHS Hospice Southern Illinois and the Everlasting Memories Program, contact Ashley Dillingham, Marketing Specialist, at 217-994-3397 or email Ashley.Dillingham@hshs.org or visit hshshospice.org.
HSHS Hospice Southern Illinois, under the auspices of HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital, is part of the Southern Illinois Division of Hospital Sisters Health System, which also includes HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville, HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital in Breese, HSHS Holy Family Hospital in Greenville, and HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital in Highland.