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Honoring those who help: Benefit Saturday will highlight work of hospice volunteers

MONTE DRAPER BEMIDJI PIONEER Dave Wilander holds a picture of he and wife Bonnie Wilander on their 50th wedding anniversary. Bonnie Wilander died on Aug. 24, 2012, and this Saturday, Wilander and others are holding benefit in Becida to honor, and raise money for, the hospice volunteer program at Sanford Bemidji.

It will be a year to the day for Dave Wilander.

Saturday marks a year since the death of his wife, Bonnie, and Wilander wants to honor her memory by honoring those who were there with he and Bonnie near the end.

Wilander and others have organized the Benefit for Sanford Bemidji Hospice, which will be held from 1 to 10 p.m. Saturday on the grounds of the Becida Bar and Grill.

The group wants to showcase hospice volunteers who give of their time to help families dealing with terminal illness and end-of-life issues.

"I could sit here all day and talk about how great these people are," Wilander said. "They are just really dedicated and excellent people."

Bonnie Wilander died Aug. 24, 2012 after battling cancer. Dave Wilander said hospice volunteers really helped him with taking care of his wife the last few months of her life. He said they would have "picnics" at her bedside, and volunteers helped out in many other ways, as well. "They made her last days a lot lighter," he said. "(Hospice) is just a real wonderful thing."

One of Bonnie's great loves was music, and the fundraiser on Saturday will showcase that, as well, with different musicians playing throughout the day, organizers said. The official name of the event is Celebrating Gifts — Loved Ones' Lives — Hospice & Music.

Other activities planned include wagon rides, a horseshoe tournament, games for children and adults, such as bean bag toss, as well as an evening meal and dance. There also will be an hospice appreciated and remembrance program starting at 3:15 p.m.

More than medical

Joan Vondras, a volunteer for more than 10 years, said many people think only in terms of medical issues when they hear the word hospice. But it goes far beyond that, she said.

Volunteers help out families in so many ways, from simply helping cook and clean, to running errands to office work to. . . well, you can just about name it. And sometimes, the best help is just relieving a family member who has been taking care of a loved one with a terminal illness.

"We become part of the family," she said.

Vondras and other organizers said many volunteers and businesses have pitched in for Saturday's event with goods and services, as well as with their time. Another neat feature is that the benefit will run in conjunction with the Becida Area Country Schools reunion. The school reunion bank account will be donated to hospice, as well.

If you go

What: Benefit for Sanford Bemidji Hospice: Celebrating Gifts — Loved Ones' Lives — Hospice & Music

When: 1 to 10 p.m.

Where: Becida Bar and Grill. 13718 County Highway 9 (intersection of Hubbard County Highways 3 and 9)


To volunteer: Visit the website or call (218) 854-7311

Matt Cory

Matt Cory is the Editor of the Pioneer. Cory grew up in East Grand Forks and is a graduate of the University of North Dakota. He worked as a reporter, copy editor and editor at the Grand Forks Herald from 1993 to 2013, when he joined the Pioneer as Editor.

(218) 333-9774