Ed “Sy” Sypolt was what we call a full-circle volunteer. He gave his time, his kindness, to help hospice patients. And in turn, the patients helped him…changed him.
Sy’s natural love for talking to people and his drive to make the sale led to a successful career as a pharmaceutical salesman. But Sy had described himself as a bit of a jerk in those days, having an insensitive attitude toward others.
That changed after Sy retired. He decided that he’d like to make some changes, get involved in the community and do some good for others. He joined Bluegrass Care Navigators (BCN) as a volunteer in 2002.
“I remember Sy telling me that his volunteer experiences humbled him, made him appreciate the things he’d been given,” says Kimberly Heestand, provider liaison for BCN.
Sy chose to spend his time helping our hospice patients after experiencing his own heartbreak. His mother-in-law suffered with illness for several years before she passed away, and his 16-year-old daughter died suddenly in a car accident. These profound losses left Sy with a desire to help people in their final days.
As a volunteer, Sy was willing to do anything that was needed. He would visit with patients in their home or nursing home, offer respite care for family members to give them a little time away from the pressures of round-the-clock caregiving, and provide 11th-hour care–sitting at the bedside as a patient is dying so they don’t die alone.
A few months before Sy passed away, he told Kimberly that he wanted to transition to being a mentor for other volunteers. “He was seeing at least a dozen patients a week. That’s a lot, especially since he was almost 80 years old,” Kimberly says. “He was such a gift.”
In honor of Sy’s extraordinary service to our patients and families, we established the Sy Award, which is presented each year to one special volunteer who has displayed selfless, compassionate service to those in our care.
Sy’s daughter Leslie was surprised at learning all that her dad had done during his volunteer service at BCN, but she wasn’t surprised at his impact on the patients or the BCN team members. She remembers her dad as the one person she could always talk to about anything and feel understood and supported.
“Dad was especially good at listening to people when things were bad for them…when they were really down. He would just sit and listen. It was something he was really good at. I miss that,” Leslie says.
Before Sy passed away, he and his wife, Elizabeth, set up a trust to support the causes they each hold close to their heart. They made a very generous $25,000 planned gift to Bluegrass Care Navigators.
“The planned gift was Dad’s idea,” Leslie says. “He loved the time he spent with the hospice patients. He got just as much back as he was giving.”