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Rockin by the Lake

Seian-Hospice-Day-clinic-checkin-lgHospices unite to aid Tanzanian colleagues

By Stephen Knapp

If giving is its own reward, then everybody who dresses down and limbos over to “Rockin’ by the Lake” on Sunday evening, Aug. 11, is in for a very sweet bonus.

Hosted by The Denver Hospice in partnership with Mount Evans Home Health and Hospice, Exempla Hospice and Key’s on the Green, the Caribbean-themed evening kicks off at 6:30 and will feature enough lush greenery, blue water, and swingin’ tropical atmosphere to satisfy anybody’s inner-castaway. For the price of a ticket, guests will enjoy an unbeatable banquet laid out by Key’s on the Green, the reggae rhythms of Boulder’s Na’an Stop, and matching blankets of velvet lawn and velvet sky. And because nobody understands the carefree island ethos as perfectly as a child, there’ll be ample activities that kids will go coco-nuts for.

But while “Rockin’ by the Lake” promises a rewarding summer’s evening for those who attend, food, fun and fellowship are only the half of it. Proceeds from the fundraiser promise desperately needed support for Selian Hospice, an island of comfort and hope in a sea of suffering and poverty half a world away. Funds raised will go toward their pediatric hospice and orphan support programs.

“Selian Hospice is located outside of Arusha, Tanzania,” explains longtime Hiwan Hills resident Lisa Motz-Storey, chaplain and African hospice liaison for The Denver Hospice. “It serves a large, rural population. Selian is all they have, and its job is almost too big to imagine.”

Nobody familiar with the hospice mission would ever take it for granted, although most in the developed world have grown accustomed to a high level of hospice service. The Denver Hospice, which has championed Selian since 2001, provides exceptional care to about 900 patients per day thanks to some 425 staff members and 500 volunteers. Selian Hospice, by contrast, depends on the tireless efforts of just 16 employees and 300 volunteers to ease the mortal pains of more than 4,500 Tanzanians on any given day – a third of them children and most suffering from AIDS. Selian manages that Herculean labor on a budget that is a fraction of that of its North American patron.

“The commitment of the people who run Selian is hard to believe until you see it,” Motz-Storey says. “They’ve never had a single volunteer quit. They’ve had some volunteers die, but they don’t quit.”

And neither does Motz-Storey. While 90 percent of Selian’s funding is provided by the United States Agency for International Development, she has helped The Denver Hospice to raise most of the remaining 10 percent of their budget, between $50,000 and $100,000 per year.

“I wanted to create an event that people would want to come to anyway,” she says. “It was Craig Caldwell at Key’s on the Green that had the vision for dinner and a concert, with people on blankets on the golf course, looking out at the lake. Craig’s been a really enthusiastic supporter.”

She next turned to colleagues at Exempla and Mount Evans for an assist, and her colleagues didn’t miss a beat.

“It’s the right thing to do,” says Kathy Engel, Mount Evans’ executive director. “I believe in hospice anywhere, but the need at Selian is so great. I have no concept of a hospice census filled with children dying from AIDS. I’m compelled to do what we can.”

Tickets to “Rockin’ by the Lake” are $60 per adult through Aug. 8, and $70 thereafter. Kids ages 5 to 16 can come aboard for just $25 each, and tykes under 5 drop anchor for free.

“We’ll also have two guests of honor,” says Motz-Storey, saving the best for last. “Two of Selian’s staff are going to be there.”

The first is John Laiser, director of the Selian-region’s AIDS Control Program. The second is front-line Selian Hospice nurse Margaret Kisay. Motz-Storey would love to send Kisay and Laiser home with a check for $10,000, plus a rain-check for more in coming years. But whatever financial support “Rockin’ by the Lake” realizes, experience tells Motz-Storey that the event will raise plenty of something Selian needs just as badly as money.

“I think that moral support and friendship are the most important things,” she explains. “It means so much to them to know there’s a network of people who care about them, and who want to help.”

To learn more about Selian Hospice and purchase tickets to “Rockin’ by the Lake”, call 303-398-6236, or visit www.thedenverhospice.org/events.