An open letter to the New York Yankees:
Dear Friends at the New York Yankees,
I would like to take a moment to introduce you to our wonderful hospice patient, Tom Ackerson. Tom is the embodiment of fearlessness, fun and fortitude. Due to cerebral palsy, he has been confined to a wheelchair since he was four-years-old, but he has not let that stop him from living life to the fullest.
Committing his life to advocating for people with disabilities, Tom spent his adult years championing the causes of those who couldn’t fight for themselves. Tom believes that everyone counts and everyone has a right to be heard. He is passionate about the right of handicapped individuals to get married without losing the state disability benefits that they are dependent on and has worked tirelessly for that cause.
His passion for equality is equal only to his passion for the sport of baseball. Tom will talk about his lifelong love of the Yankees to anyone who will listen. He has vivid memories of having his sister pitch baseballs to him in his wheelchair indoors and breaking a window or two with his powerful swing. His most treasured memories include watching Mickey Mantle play and meeting Reggie Jackson, who told Tom that he should run for president. He has never stopped loving Yankees baseball and follows the team faithfully from his room in the Ability Beyond group home that he resides in, in Danbury, CT.
82-year-old Tom was recently diagnosed with heart failure and a precipitous decline led him to our hospice services. As his disease progresses and his life nears its end, Tom’s love of the Yankees is a light that shines bright for him. Looking forward to the upcoming baseball season, he’ll bet anyone that the Yankees will win the World Series, though he knows he will likely not make it to see them play.
His entire hospice team of nurses, social workers, home health aides, chaplains and volunteers have been taken by Tom, a gentle soul with a magnetic personality and a strong conviction of what is right and wrong. He is not bitter about his disability. He views it as something that opened many doors in his life. His optimism and gentle kindness draws people to him. The joy it brings him to witness, perform and receive simple acts of kindness compels those around him to bring as much joy to his life as possible.
The thing that would bring Tom the most joy in his remaining days of life would be an opportunity for the Yankees organization to connect with Tom. We are hoping that the Yankees will be able to come to him: through an in-person visit – or even a Skype visit. This would be an enormously bright spot in his days and a tribute to a fan, whose love of the Yankees opened his world.
When reflecting upon his life, Tom indicates that he just hopes that he made a difference. Anyone who knows Tom can assure you that he has.
We would love, with the help of the New York Yankees, to give Tom this final gift, for all the gifts that he has given others throughout his life.
Please let me know if you will be able to help.
Tom’s Friends at Regional Hospice and Palliative Care
Regional Hospice and Palliative Care (RHPC) has served Fairfield, New Haven, Hartford & Litchfield counties with nonprofit home hospice care for over 30 years. In 2015, RHPC opened the state-of-the-art Center for Comfort Care & Healing. This family-centered hospice residence is CT’s first and only private-suite facility, servicing patients and their families from throughout the country, especially in New York State and Connecticut. RHPC’s mission is to provide exceptional end-of-life care, comfort and compassion to infants, children, adults and their families with a dedicated staff of professionals. (www.RegionalHospiceCT.org)