Working with seniors isn’t always easy for caregivers. At LSS, nurses and aides come to see their role as more than a job — for them, it’s a calling to make a real impact on the lives of the people they serve. And while that calling can sometimes bring difficulty and heartache, those hard times make the good moments that much sweeter.
For example, take the story of Julie Bayless, a staff member at LSS’ Breeze Park community. “Clarence [Vollmar] and I hit it off right from the beginning,” she says. “He has a great sense of humor. And we both love baseball.”
Julie works in Breeze Park’s care center, where residents receive 24-hour nursing care. There, she met Clarence during one of the hardest times of his life — after some medical setbacks, he found himself in a wheelchair, feeling more than a little defeated. “He would lay in his bed all day,” Julie remembers, “but as our bond got stronger, he slowly became more sociable. He started going on out trips and talking with his neighbors more.”
But the turning point for Clarence was 2011’s LSS Night at the Ballpark. Each year, an LSS resident is selected via an essay contest to throw out the first pitch of a Cardinals game. For Clarence, being chosen would be a dream come true. A Cardinals fan for more than 75 years and an amateur player his entire life, Clarence even has his own official Cardinals uniform, which he received as part of a fantasy baseball camp.
“I told Clarence about the contest,” Julie says, “and he told me, ‘I’m going to win this.’”
So that’s just what he did. With Julie’s help, he got his thoughts down on paper. He got back into shape, tossing a baseball back and forth with the care center’s staff every morning. And when Clarence’s big moment came, he walked out to the mound in front of a cheering crowd at Busch Stadium, arm in arm with Julie.
To this day, Julie can’t help but tear up when she thinks about it. “To actually be there to experience that,” she said, “to see him accomplish something that he’s always dreamt of doing … it meant more to me than words could ever say. I’m so grateful I could be a part of that.”
Thanks to Julie, the barriers in Clarence’s life that had once seemed so insurmountable had come down. Suddenly, anything was possible again. Within months, he was packing his things and getting ready to move out of 24-hour nursing care and into an assisted living apartment.
The day he moved out of the care center, music was playing in the Great Room, and Clarence got up to dance with a friend of the family. “I was there behind him, holding him by the belt loop because I was afraid he was going to fall,” Julie says, smiling through tears at the thought of that day. “When he shooed me away, I stood back and just watched in amazement to see how strong and determined he’d become.”
“It was just breathtaking.”