Desi Toczek isn’t your typical fifth grader. While he has a wide array of interests like most boys his age, including baseball, history, violin, cub scouts and traveling, he most enjoyed spending time with his grandfather, Richard Winney. Fishing, camping at “the little house” and listening to stories of his time served in the military are some of Desi’s favorite memories; they were best friends. In April 2021, Richard passed away from cancer while receiving care from Niagara Hospice.
This wasn’t Desi’s family’s first experience with hospice. As I spoke with his mom, Kristen, she shared her past experience with Niagara Hospice when her grandfather passed away in 2014. Prior to that, she had heard of hospice but had no idea what to expect.
“Everyone was amazing, they are angels,” she recalled. “I want to be friends with them!” Thus, when her father made the decision of not continuing cancer treatment to receive hospice services, she was heartbroken, but knew he would receive the best possible care.
One memory that stood out to her in particular was when a housekeeper at Hospice House came into her father’s room to empty the garbage. He stopped her as he noticed a tattoo she had and they ended up talking for a half an hour, saying it was the highlight of his day! The level of care and compassion her family received from every person they came into contact with forever changed her view of hospice.
When Desi learned his school, Lewiston Porter Intermediate, was doing a Jingle Bell Fun Run to benefit Niagara Hospice, he knew he wanted to get involved. With the help of his mom, Desi made a video and posted it to her Facebook page. The video garnered the attention of family and friends who also wanted to show their support for his family. Out of the $2,000 raised by the school, Desi raised $1,200!
As a 10-year-old, Desi’s actions are not only admirable, but inspiring. He’s shown us that no matter how old you are or at what stage of life you are in, the loss of a loved one affects us all. Whether we raise money via a fundraiser, plant a tree or simply visit their favorite place, we can always honor our loved ones by keeping their memories alive in our hearts.