BY DANIEL GAITAN
An Illinois police department is observing No-Shave November by raising funds for a hospice that cared for one of their own.
Officer Mark Dahlem died February 5 while receiving comfort care at JourneyCare in Barrington from complications associated with brain cancer. Dahlem, 48, served the nearby Palatine Police Department for more than 23 years.
“He was a smart guy, he was funny,” Cmdr. Dave Weeks told Life Matters Media. “He was a dear friend and colleague.”
Weeks said JourneyCare made every effort to accomodate the hundreds of officers, city staff and friends who visited Dahlem during his stay. He hopes their campaign sparks a conversation in the department about the benefits of such care.
“JourneyCare was phenomenal,” Weeks said. “They did a great job with him, the family and us. There were a lot of Palatine police officers who would stop in and visit, and they really allowed us to take over their facility. They were so gracious. I’ll never forget it. This November, we wanted to give back the best we could.”
Weeks said the department may include the public in any future benefits for the hospice. However, this year’s benefit is all in-house. Any officer wishing to participate must ensure his facial hair is neat and tidy.
Weeks said thousands of dollars have already been raised by the roughly 150 person force, which includes officers, clerks and administrative assistants. Some male and female members of the force opted to donate without jeopardizing their appearance.
The department contacted Dahlem’s widow, Kimberly Dahlem, earlier this month for her blessing.
“Hopefully this will help other families considering hospice,” Kimberly Dahlem told Life Matters Media.
Kimberly Dahlem said in 2017 her husband took part in his own No-Shave November before official department photos were taken in jest. That tongue-in-cheek decision inspired this year’s fundraiser.
“Mark was the most clean-shaven guy for his whole life,” she said. “He got into this stage which we now know was probably connected to the tumor he had. This is how it started. It’s in his memory and in thanks to JourneyCare. We actually do have photos of him with his mustache.”
Although she wasn’t a big fan of her husband’s facial hair, Kimberly Dahlem said the effort will make this Thanksgiving a little more sweet for her family.
This time two years ago, Mark Dahlem began complaining of excruciating headaches. He died a little over a year later after being diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer.
“I’m so grateful for the Palatine police,” she said. “I have met so many brothers and sisters in blue. Not everybody has such a close comradery in their workplace. Me and my children have been in their thoughts and prayers. It’s really nice.”
Kimberly Dahlem said news of the benefit made this unusually snowy fall less blue. She called winter the family’s “sick season” because Mark Dahlem’s condition worsened as the cold crept in.
“Going into winter, I have some anxiety,” Dahlem said. “We’re going into our first holiday season without him. We’re keeping everything pretty low-key. ”
Kimberly Hobson, JourneyCare President and CEO, said the organization is “absolutely touched” by the fundraiser.
“It was our privilege to care for him and his family, and we are honored that this effort will raise awareness of the expert, compassionate care that our teams work to provide for those living with serious illness in the Chicago region,” Hobson said in a statement to Life Matters Media.
Hospice aims to provide comfort care and pain management to terminally ill patients with six months or less to live. Hospice is most often used when curative treatments are no longer effective.
Cancer remains the most common diagnosis for patients seeking hospice, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.
– Images courtesy the Dahlem family