Sharon Aureli reflects on the rich history of Arkansas Hospice and her late husband’s leadership role as the organization continues to serve families throughout the state.
By Jillian McGehee | Photography by Meredith Melody | Hair by Kristen Spann with Red Beauty Lounge | Makeup by Kaity Knoff with Red Beauty Lounge
Celebrating 25 years of quality care, Arkansas Hospice boasts the heart of its organization is its people, from physicians to devoted volunteers and patrons. The reinforcement and respect the organization receives through its network of support was evident at the recent 25th anniversary celebration – an intimate gathering to commemorate its steadfast commitment to serving patients and their families facing life-limiting illness.
Arkansas Hospice Foundation Vice Chairman Sharon Aureli reflects on the rich history of the organization and her late husband’s leadership role. Michael Aureli was the organization’s beloved president and CEO from 1995 until his death in 2011. As Michael’s wife, Sharon recalls her initial experience as an Arkansas Hospice volunteer in the early days of the organization. “I was able to help care for the very first hospice patient that Arkansas Hospice served. In the beginning I would fix meals for the board meetings, help Michael put desks together, hang wallpaper in the new office – whatever it took to get things done and to help make this mission successful.”
As her role at the foundation evolves, her belief in its mission – to enhance the quality of life for those facing serious illness by surrounding them with love and embracing them with the best physical, emotional and spiritual care – is unwavering.
The legacy of her husband continues through the organization’s programs and services, Sharon notes, and she is moved to see how Arkansas Hospice has flourished during its quarter-of-a-century history.
“Since its start, Arkansas Hospice has grown from one location to nine offices and three inpatient centers that reach more than 40 counties and serve over 500 patients each day,” she explains. “The joy comes from the stories that families and loved ones share about how they benefited from Arkansas Hospice services.”
As the organization celebrates 25 years, Sharon notes some of its unique highlights:
• Arkansas Hospice is the only hospice with a dedicated pediatric team in Arkansas.
• Arkansas Hospice has become the only Level Four We Honor Veterans partner in the state and the only not-for-profit health care organization to be verified by the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs to serve the veteran population of Arkansas.
• Arkansas Hospice provides care and services regardless of age, sex, race, creed, marital status, sexual orientation, color, national origin, religion, citizenship status, veteran status, illness, handicap, disability or ability to pay.
Arkansas Hospice recently acquired a hospice agency, formerly operated by Mercy Hospital, in Berryville to serve patients and their families in Northwest Arkansas. The new service area covers a 50-mile radius around Berryville, which includes all or part of Benton, Boone, Carroll, Crawford, Franklin, Johnson, Madison, Marion, Newton, Searcy and Washington counties. Arkansas Hospice President & CEO Judy Wooten adds, “It’s especially joyful that this expansion of our service is happening this year as we celebrate our 25th anniversary.”
It’s hard not to think of the legacy left by Sharon’s late husband with good news such as the recent expansion in Berryville. She will always hold Michael close to her heart.
“My biggest inspiration was, is and will always be my late husband, Michael Valentine Aureli. Yes, he was Italian, yes he was born on Valentine’s Day – hence the middle name – and he was the greatest example of kindness, compassion, spirituality, love and wisdom. I miss the sparkle of his eyes and his sweet smile every day. He does, however, send me feathers from heaven at special moments.”