‘Gratitude ambush’: Flash mob surprises, celebrates St. George couple

ST. GEORGE — After being invited to Memory Matters on the pretense of organizing a fundraiser, Brad and Terry Cottam were the targets of a “gratitude ambush” in recognition of their exceptional support to individuals with dementia and their caregivers.

Businesses responded to the call to recognize outstanding local caregivers by donating gifts, St. George, Utah, Feb. 24, 2021 | Photo by Ammon Teare, St. George News

Fellow caregivers, hospice staff and friends gathered to celebrate the Cottams with an impromptu dance number and a gift basket containing items donated by local businesses. Included in the donations were gift cards to local restaurants, vitamins and supplements, vouchers for two hour-long hyperbaric sessions, jewelry and home goods.

“Brad and Terry are our heroes,” said LuAnn Lundquist, executive director for Memory Matters. “They’re just like ministering angels who help everyone they see. If one of our caregivers is unavailable, or an individual receiving care just needs a visit, then Brad and Terry will go over and visit and bring them a casserole.”

Many of those in attendance, including fellow caregivers stepped up to express their love and appreciation for the Cottams. The attendees shared their experiences of the couple showing up whenever and wherever they were needed, in addition to the memorable Alaskan cruise trips that the Cottams organized for caregivers and their loved ones.

In 2012, the Cottams got involved with Memory Matters –  a local nonprofit organization focused on helping individuals with dementia and their caregivers –  as they searched for help when their parents began to experience the advanced stages of dementia. 

Long time St. George residents Brad and Terry Cottam were honored for their community service in a surprise celebration, St. George, Utah, Feb. 24, 2021 | Photo by Ammon Teare, St. George News

Between the two of them, three parents would ultimately suffer from moderate to severe dementia. As they learned to navigate the challenges of being caregivers, they started to share their expertise and offer help to others in need.

“We never intended when we started to have anything like this, we just did it out of love and respect for other people,” Brad Cottam said.

Caregivers can be family members, friends or even paid helpers that support seniors or individuals with disabilities. This support can take many forms, including providing transportation, preparing meals, running errands, doing housework and/or helping individuals to dress or bathe. According to a 2020 report prepared by AARP, more than 1 in 5 Americans (21.3%) provide care to an adult or child with special needs at some point in the past 12 months.

In a Facebook video posted Jan. 5, Integrated Senior Care Home Health & Hospice announced their caregiver giveaway initiative. According to Tami Robinson, an account executive for the hospice, the hospice and Memory Matters partnered to honor the Cottams this month, with plans to honor more caregivers in the future.

After exiting the building and seeing their friends cheer and dance, Brad and Terry Cottam greet the members of the flash mob, St. George, Utah, Feb. 24, 2021 | Photo by Ammon Teare, St. George News

“This last year has been so hard on the medical community – on caregivers and patients – and we just decided that we want to do something light and fun and to bring people together,” Robinson said. “We’re wanting this to be a monthly event where we go around to different facilities and hospitals or wherever people are nominated.”

Nominations can be submitted through Facebook, with nomination forms being distributed at local facilities for the chance to recognize their own staff.

The Cottams’ contributions and assistance extend beyond their own efforts. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Memory Matters shifted its caregiver support group to a virtual-only platform. 

As gathering restrictions have relaxed, Terry Cottam was able to help organize in-person meetings for interested caregivers. In observation of health and safety guidelines for physical distancing, Terry Cottam convinced her brother Ron Metcalf to allow them to use space in Metcalf Mortuary for weekly meetings.

Even after losing their own loved ones, The Cottams continue to attend support group meetings, which are currently held twice a week: Mondays at 1 p.m. via Zoom, and Wednesdays at 1 p.m. at Metcalf Mortuary. More information can be found here

Those interested in getting involved in future giveaways or celebrations can find more information on the hospice’s Facebook page.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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