Idaho groups grant wishes for terminally ill

Their requests are often touchingly simple.

A home-cooked meal.

A fishing trip with grandsons who live out of state.

A spa visit and professional photos that can be given to family members.

These are some of more than a dozen wishes that have been fulfilled — or will be soon — by the Meridian-based No Regrets Foundation, established in November to be a kind of Make-A-Wish Foundation for terminally ill grown-ups.

"Family members of sick and dying patients are so overwhelmed with so many things," said Dr. Mylynda Massart, a family practice physician who is on the board of No Regrets. "I think the foundation can come in and fill in so many different gaps."

"People can draw upon us as a resource," Massart said. "There's no wish too small, and no wish too big. It needs to be considered and see what we can do."

When people hear about No Regrets, they often want to help, said founder Allison Carter. She said she's received calls and emails from hundreds of people offering to volunteer or provide services since she began promoting it on Facebook.

"We've had pilots say they'll do a private lesson. Restaurants donating food. Horseback-riding sessions offered," Carter said.

Carter has friends who are working to open chapters of No Regrets in other areas, including Twin Falls, Portland and San Francisco.

"I've definitely seen the need out there," said No Regrets board member Sarah McDaniel, owner of All About Home care. "There are not a lot of services out there that I've seen that do something like this."

At least one other Treasure Valley organization dedicates itself to granting wishes to terminally ill adults — Boise-based nonprofit Wish Granters Inc. was launched last July.

Doug Raper, executive director of Wish Granters, said the group had granted 10 wishes and is working on five more. He says wishes have included family trips to the Oregon Coast, meeting the Boise State football team and restoring a cherished car.

"We don't only give wishes for the individuals. We help to make memories for their families," said Raper, who previously worked for Make-A-Wish and Wishing Star.

Recently, the No Regrets Foundation moved into office space in Meridian donated by Jason Hawke of J.P. Turner.

One of the inspirations for No Regrets was Carter's grandmother — Madalene Ammerman Montgomery — who died from lung cancer in 2006. "Mema," as her grandchildren called her, had worked as a registered nurse in Texas.

"She was amazing and extremely selfless," Carter said. "My mema was very religious and was always volunteering her (time) and efforts at church and as much in the community as she could."

At the end of her life, Montgomery spoke of things she wished she had done, including travel.

"I would have loved to have been able to get all of our family back together to be with her one more time," Carter said. "She loved to cook meals, and that would have been her last wish."

Carter, 33, who grew up in Twin Falls, lives in Boise with her husband, Dave, and their two young children, Jack, 4, and Vivian, 18 months.

She is a University of Idaho grad and has worked at Alzheimer's and hospice facilities in the Treasure Valley. She is currently marketing director for an assisted living facility in Nampa.

Early last year, Carter began to research what she needed to do to create a nonprofit to aid terminally ill adults and their families. In November, she assembled an executive board made up of professionals involved in some aspect of health care, elder care or hospice.

Lisa Douda, 33, an acquaintance of Carter's from high school, is working to get the Twin Falls chapter going. A former restaurateur and caterer, Douda said she became interested in end-of-life care after her father became ill with cancer in 2005.

She later became a volunteer with the nonprofit Friends of Hospice. Now employed as community resource director for Assisting Hands Home Care, Douda said she'd been thinking of a similar idea when she found out about No Regrets.

"There are these wonderful programs out there for children, as there should be," she said. "People forget that because you're older doesn't mean there isn't things you wish you could do.

"I hope we're giving people the opportunity to go out on their own terms," Douda said.

Carter said she's hoping the No Regrets Foundation can raise about $15,000 to grant wishes this year. The group has already received a couple of grants, and fundraisers are planned in June 23 (at SpurWing golf course) and for New Year's Eve (no venue selected yet).

The group grants wishes to individuals who are 18 years or older.

"In the geriatric field, I see a lot of people overlooked," Carter said. "There's just not a lot of resources out there for our elderly population or our adults who are ill."

But the group's executive board has the final say, and they have agreed to grant a wish to a 17-year-old who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

"She's still thinking about it," Carter said. "She doesn't know what she wants yet."

The all-volunteer group doesn't give out money, but it will arrange travel out of state, if necessary.

They are flying out the Oregon grandsons of an Idaho man who requested one last fishing trip with them. They're also aiding an Idaho woman in traveling to Alaska to see her father before he dies.

Some of the first dozen requests have been breathtakingly modest. One longtime resident of a care facility asked for a home-cooked meal.

"We baked him some greasy fried chicken, mashed potatoes and cornbread," Carter said.

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