Circle of Life Celebrates 25 years of service to community

Posted: October 22, 2017 at 1 a.m.

Courtesy photo Circle of Life's "Art of Hospice" gala will be held Nov. 4 at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

When Circle of Life Hospice hosts the "Art of Hospice" event on Nov. 4 at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the nonprofit will be celebrating 25 years of serving Northwest Arkansas families and their loved ones with end-of-life care.

The organization has branches in both Springdale and Bentonville.

"What we really focus on is making the most out of our clients' lives, and what they're going through with their end-of-life process," says Kelly Horrell, the organization's annual giving manager. "We focus on them living their lives as much as they can and not so much on what's to come. It's very positive -- we ask, 'What can we do for you? How can we help you?'"

Horrell says that hospice patients can come to the facilities in Bentonville or Springdale when their families are struggling to care for them, but Circle of Life also helps care for hospice patients in their own homes or in rehabilitation or nursing homes.

"When you come on to hospice, the family no longer has to be the primary caregivers," says Horrell. "We're the ones managing the symptoms, and they get to be the wife or husband or daughter or son. We get to take that clinical part away from them, and it gives them so much stress relief because they don't have to do that medical side anymore.

"We often hear people say, 'I wish we had come on to hospice sooner'. The more we can do for that patient, the more we can do for the whole family."

Marilyn Swearingen says Circle of Life has assisted her family through the loss of four parents.

"Our first experience was in the home," she says. "The nurses and support staff were wonderful. Their expertise and guidance allowed us to make confident decisions. Other family members were patients in Legacy Village Hospice Home. The services there allow the family to concentrate on the loved one without the burden of physical care. The staff cares for and loves the family as they do the patient.

"We are so blessed to have Circle of Life in our community."

The black tie gala at Crystal Bridges that Horrell is helping to plan promises to be a moving event.

"We choose art from a temporary exhibit, and this year it's the Stuart Davis: In Full Swing exhibit," says Horrell. "We take a piece of his art, and we relate it to hospice. When Stuart passed away, he was working on this piece -- there's still masking tape on it where you can see he was working. We feel that relates to hospice in a way -- he was leaving his legacy. It was unfinished, but people are still able to see it and say, 'Look at what he did!' and celebrate his artwork. And [at Circle of Life], people are on hospice, and we're still carrying their legacy. People can celebrate their loved ones in that way."

The event will start with a pre-party from 6:30 until 7:30 p.m. that will feature a jazz band and an open bar. Participants will be free to visit the entire Stuart Davis exhibit in an after-hours setting.

"We'll also give away two awards," says Horrell. "We'll present someone with the Bernice Young Jones Award, which goes to a volunteer who has gone above and beyond what is asked of them, someone who just has Circle of Life in their blood.

"And we'll present the Pat Walker Commitment of Care Award to a company or individual that has shown the same loving spirit that Pat has shown to health care and her community."

Horrell says that actress Tembi Locke will also be speaking about her experience with hospice, the organization she turned to when her husband was diagnosed with cancer, and her efforts to process her grief.

"She will talk about how hospice and art and food can pull someone out of that grief and help them heal," she says.

Presenting sponsors of the evening are Walmart and the Willard and Pat Walker Foundation. The Miller McNeil Woodruff Foundation will be a part of the fundraising challenge of the evening, as they match the funds that are raised during that portion of the evening.

"Miller was on our service for a couple of months, so because of the care we provided the family they make a generous donation to us each year," says Horrell. "They are our family host for the evening."

NAN Profiles on 10/22/2017