Kris Speegle of Allstate Insurance grew up on Kaua’i attending Kaua’i Hospice’s annual firework tradition, ‘Celebration in the Sky.’ He enjoyed the festivities but did not fully understand what hospice meant until he was older and began seeing “family members and friends that were going through the end-of-life stages and hospice stepped in to honor and respect them.”
Kris’ first personal experience with hospice care happened when witnessing his grandfather’s end-of-life journey, and then became firsthand years later when his dad’s cancer treatments were no longer effective.
"Early on dad’s treatments were really successful,” explained Kris. “But then the cancer came back. It happened before we knew it and I felt like it just blindsided us. Once hospice came into the picture, it was instant relief because we had these people who really knew what they are doing. They gave my family reading material to help us see what we were going through wasn’t unique, and understanding on how the dying process works. It’s strange but that knowledge puts my heart somewhat at ease. I can't put it into words…it was devastating, and painful in every way, and so I think it would’ve been horrific without hospice support there. The layers made a world of difference, from their knowledge of the process and letting us know what to expect, to giving us hugs and telling us, ‘It’ll be ok, we are here for you.’ They were angels.”
When Kris moved to the Big Island, he became part of the East Hawai’i business community through his work as owner of an Allstate Insurance Agency in Hilo. “Giving Back Locally” is an important part of being an Allstate agent – as explained on the organization’s national website community page: As agents, employees, and neighbors, we bring good to life right where we live – giving out time, money and support to strengthen our communities.
One of the things Kris decided to do to start giving back was become a Rotarian with the Rotary Club of Hilo Bay. In 2014, Kris was awarded the Rotary International Vocational Service Leadership Award for his on work in advancing ethical business practices, collaboration, and community service. He previously sat on the board of the Rotary of Hilo, is a member of the Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce, and is Past President of the Big Island Referral Network.
Through his work with Rotary, Kris met other Hilo Rotarians, one of which was Rotary Club of South Hilo’s past president and CEO of Hawai’i Care Choices, Brenda S. Ho. “I already had a deep appreciation for what hospice care does for families,” explained Kris, “but meeting Brenda and learning about Hawai’i Care Choices’ programs, services and events made me really proud to see how much Hawai’i Care Choices is woven into the community.”
Kris understands that hospice is not just about death, it’s actually about being able to live life to its fullest, for both the person in hospice care, and the family that surrounds them.
“We all knew what was to come, but when hospice came in they took such great care of my dad that he could actually live his life in those final months. Hospice also helped our family prepare for what was to come, and when dad’s time came, they were there to help us and support us. Death is such a difficult thing for a family to go through, emotions are at their highest, but the calm quiet strength of the hospice team helped us learn to live with our grief. When we think about dad now we smile at his memory before we shed tears for our loss. That’s the beauty of hospice and why it was important for me to get involved.”
For the past fourteen years Hospice of Hilo, now Hawai’i Care Choices, has held its Celebration of Life lantern floating ceremony, based on the centuries-old Japanese tradition of Toro Nagashi. It is a part of our island heritage to honor those who have come before. Witnessing hundreds of love-filled lanterns floating on the ocean, illuminated against the night sky, is a sight never to be forgotten.
As the event enters its 15th anniversary, community members are joining in at the new location at Reed’s Bay Beach Park on May 25th to celebrate those we have loved and lost while providing a space for healing, remembrance and closure. In addition to performances from Hula Halau ‘O Kawananakoa and Kalapana’s ‘Awa Band, the evening will fill with the sounds of taiko drums from the Hilo Bon Dance Club and dancing lead by Tsukikage Odori Kai. The gathering will culminate in a multi-faith prayer and the Lights of Remembrance Procession lantern release ceremony along Banyan Drive.
Kris expressed great joy at being this year’s Celebration of Life presenting sponsor. When asked why he agreed to support the event Kris said,
“For many years now my company has chosen to give back to the community through various non-profits in a diversity of need areas. All of them were important causes making positive impacts. But I always told my wife that I wanted to find something to support that I felt a deep and meaningful connection to from my own life experience. So when Hawai’i Care Choices gave me the opportunity to sponsor such a life-affirming and healing event; it felt right. We have so many of our Allstate customers that have benefitted from the palliative, hospice and bereavement programs of Hawai’i Care Choices. On multiple occasions, I have suggested to customers to give Hawai’i Care Choices a call to access their support, and have witnessed our customers get the help they needed.”
For Kris, being a sponsor is an incredible feeling. “To know that our support plays a role in how Hawai’i Care Choices can continue serving the community; that feels really good. That’s why it was important for me to sponsor this meaningful event. I can never pay back what hospice did for my dad, but I can pay it forward.”
Celebration of Life 2019 will be held on May 25th at Hilo’s Reed’s Bay Beach Park from 3:30p – 7:30p. For more information about the free community event click HERE.