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The curtains opened on the first Saturday in March as Kristi Schaeffer-Kleutsch, An Evening of Wishes Committee member and Hospice Alliance supporter, welcomed nearly 200 guests to the University of Wisconsin-Parkside’s Student Center for an evening of donating, dining and entertainment.

All funds raised at the annual event benefit Hospice Alliance, the nonprofit, community based hospice care provider that has served the Racine and Kenosha communities since 1981. Hospice care is offered to anyone with a life limited diagnosis who could use the support of a care team that includes a registered nurse case manager, clinical social worker, spiritual care and certified nursing assistant who work in collaboration with the patient’s physician and the guidance of medical directors who are experts in end-of-life care.

Hospice Alliance never turns away a patient for inability to pay, whether they are uninsured or underinsured and offers the only Hospice House, an eight-bed residential care facility in this corner of the state.

Rita Hagen, executive director, provided the evening’s highlight recognizing and honoring Sandy Riese, registered nurse, and Mary Karnes, both longtime board members and advocates instrumental in driving hospice care in our community. Both have graciously shared their community influence and each has imparted their expertise — Riese often utilizing her extensive healthcare background, and Karnes sharing her fundraising and event planning experience.

The Broadway-themed evening featured a 20-minute performance of familiar musical tunes by Southport Sound, accompanied by a duet plate of beef tenderloin and salmon. Guests bid high and often on silent and live auction items, and took their chances on the select raffle items as well.

New this year’s event was a special raffle with the winner relocating from a traditional assigned table to the premier table. After purchasing a raffle ticket, one lucky guest’s name was drawn. The winner was able to bring everyone seated at his/her table to the premier table where the entrée included filet and lobster, fine wines and tiered strawberry shortcake for dessert.

“How wonderful that it was Sandy Riese’s brother-in-law, David, who won the premier table raffle, so she and her husband, Jim, were able to dine with family members at the special table,” said Hagen. “I think that made the night even that much more special. It’s lovely when things like that work out.”

Hosts of the premier table included Lily Karnes and Josephine Knight, Miss Kenosha and Miss Teen Kenosha, respectively. Lily Karnes’ presence at the event was especially sweet, as she was the granddaughter of Mary Karnes.

With eight live auction items, including coveted Bucks and Brewers tickets, 78 silent auction items with many one-of-a-kind gifts and opportunities and a dozen raffle items, all garnered bids and sales in support of Hospice Alliance’s Mission of “adding life to days.”

“It is so amazing to see so many board members past and present, guests from businesses that support us and believe strongly in the work we do, but I think I’m most taken aback by those who attend as a way to demonstrate their appreciation for the care that we’ve provided for their loves ones,” said Hagen. We were a part of their most difficult days and yet they choose to attend an event that surely brings back memories of that time. We are so grateful.”

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