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Grayslake woman’s trip to Vegas a ‘Dream’ come true

Gages Lake-12/12/12 Wed./Stalker Residence
Shirley Stalker Gages Lake just back from her Las Vegas trip after wish granted her by Dream.

Gages Lake-12/12/12, Wed./Stalker Residence Shirley Stalker, of Gages Lake just back from her Las Vegas trip after a wish granted to her by Dream. | Joe Shuman~For Sun-Times Media

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Hospice Dreams

The non-profit works to fulfill the dreams of adult hospice-care patients.

It focuses on patients in Illinois, Michigan and Missouri. The organization is about five years old and has granted more than 140 dreams as of December 2011.

The organization hopes to grant 100 wishes in 2012.

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Updated: February 16, 2013 2:30AM

Shirley Stalker, 66, thought she was just making casual chit-chat with her hospice care nurse when she mentioned that a trip to Vegas with her daughters is on her bucket list.

The Grayslake woman did not know that Advocate Hospice has partnered with the non profit Hospice Dreams. The charity is similar to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, only it grants wishes for adults.

Stalker and her daughters Amanda Link and Laurie Sprague went to Vegas for three nights and four days recently.

“I had no clue this was coming. It was so nice,” Stalker said.

Stalker went to Vegas a couple of years ago for Amanda’s wedding. However, she did not get to gamble or see the sights due to the wedding schedule.

This time, Stalker got to see the sights, do some gambling and watched the musical “Jersey Boys.” She didn’t win but did go through the money she had budgeted for gambling.

The trip and entertainment was completely paid for by Hospice Dreams. The trip cost more than $3,500, according to Hospice Dreams Development Manager Kristen Kolwelter.

“They (hospice patients) have a lot to worry about at this point in their lives. We want them to enjoy themselves and not to think about anything else,” Kolwelter said.

The charity grants about 100 wishes per year on average, she said. They hope to double that number for 2013.

Kolwelter said it took less than a month to put Stalker’s wish together once it was brought to the organization’s attention.

“We want to give our patients a chance to live out one of their last dreams to improve the quality of their lives,” Kolwelter said.

Stalker said that Kolwelter “went over and beyond” to make her dream trip come true.

Stalker was put in hospice care earlier this year. She was diagnosed with stage 4 bile cancer in June.

Bile duct cancer is mainly seen in older people, with the average age of diagnosed patients at 70, according to American Cancer Society.

There are about 2,000 to 3,000 people in the United States who develop bile duct cancer annually in the United States, according to ACS.

Stalker was diagnosed at a routine physical examine when her doctor felt tumors in her liver. It was determined that her bile duct cancer had already spread.

After her diagnosis, Stalker had to leave her part-time job as an optician in Lindenhurst.

She has four living siblings, four grown children and four granddaughters. She said she had wanted a girls’ trip to Vegas and that her two sons were supportive of her trip.

“I think that the (Hospice Dreams) foundation is awesome and more people should be told that they are out there. Older people have fantasies and buckets lists,” Stalker said.

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