In fall 2017, a woman with Huntington’s Disease made a simple request. She asked two health volunteers driving her back from a doctor’s appointment to circle the car one more time around the block before returning home. She leaned her face against the window to take in the scenery.
The woman died in hospice care a few hours later, and Tiffinay Vargas was crushed. A home health care and hospice worker, she was one of those two volunteers. Vargas later asked of herself, why didn’t she take the woman on more rides before then?
At the time, Vargas was still grieving the unexpected death of her father, at age 58, a few months earlier. She wished she’d had more time with him, perhaps for his favorite holiday, Fourth of July.
Both experiences triggered a response, and by December 2017, Vargas had founded One More Time. The nonprofit grants wishes for adults who face a limited time to live.
“Everybody has something they wish they’d done in their life or wish they got to do again, and everybody has someone they wish they’d done that experience with,” Vargas said.
Initially focused on the Coeur d’Alene area, the group has expanded in recent years to grant wishes throughout the Idaho Panhandle, and into the Spokane area. This year is the nonprofit’s fifth year for its Deck The Halls fundraiser, held 6-8 p.m. Thursday at Garden Plaza in Post Falls.
Vargas said One More Time has fulfilled bucket-list dreams for people as young as 25 and as old as 107. Those wishes range from simply a huckleberry milkshake and cruise around town to a 26-year-old mother with cancer who wanted a trip to Disneyland with her daughter, 5, and family. That trip was fulfilled this past January, and she has since died.
“We call it life-limiting conditions, and that was intentional because I work in home health and hospice in my day job, so with hospice if we wait until they’re terminal, then sometimes it’s too hard for them to do exactly what they want,” Vargas said. “We then have to do more the idea of something.
“As an example, we had a 41-year-old and she wanted to go to Italy. She had bone cancer that had metastasized to her pelvis so she couldn’t sit that long in an airplane. We did an Italy night for her.”
The night had food from an Italian restaurant, music and ballroom dancing. “We improvised for that, and that’s why I intentionally left the mission broader.”
Vargas said the nonprofit recently supported some wishes for two brothers, 22 and 26, who have Duchenne muscular dystrophy and use wheelchairs. The condition only affects males, and the oldest patient with the condition lived to 28, she said. “Since being born with this, they’ve lost two parents and they live in a nursing home. We met them in the summer and they gave me a bucket list and we’ve been working down it.”
One More Time volunteers have taken the brothers, who live in Coeur d’Alene, to see the recent “Top Gun” movie and to the Fourth of July demolition derby at Stateline. For the youngest brother’s birthday coming up, he requested a Nerf gun party.
Even during COVID-19, the group was able to fulfill some wishes while following health guidelines, including a 104-year-old’s birthday party. They also held a Disney parade that included 20 volunteers dressed in movie costumes because the individual couldn’t go to the resort, which was closed.
Another memorable fulfillment was when Vargas took a woman who was in her 80s to a Willie Nelson concert at Northern Quest in 2018.
“Dee was hilarious,” she said. “We had handicap seats, so we were very close, and she covered her head during the opening act to the point that Alison Kraus’ stage manager came out and wanted to know if something was wrong, and she said, ‘I’m just here for Willie.’ ”
“The minute Willie came out, she was acting like she was 20 years old. That was her first time ever seeing him, and as a lifelong fan, she got her big wish.”
The opportunities are equally beneficial for volunteers. “I lost my father and wished I could do things with him, and I can’t,” she said. “But I can do something here and help people, so it’s really cathartic.”
The fundraiser’s proceeds help the organization continue granting wishes. The event features food, drinks, and live and silent auctions with decorated trees and wreaths.
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