Gary Kirkland Heart of Hospice Award

Gary Kirkland was awarded the 2019 Heart of Hospice Patient Care Volunteer Award by the Missouri Hospice & Palliative Care Association on February 6, 2019. Gary has spent more than 13 years volunteering with Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care. His guitar and his beautiful golden lab, Emma, are welcome sights each week at Kansas City Hospice House.

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Musician, vocal artist and volunteer

Gary Kirkland is a musician and vocal artist. Some time ago, he experienced the death of several close friends. As they neared the end of life, Gary played and sang for them. It was an honor for Gary to be part of their transition. And, he realized he had a knack for choosing comforting and appropriate music. A friend was a nurse with Kansas City Hospice. So, when Gary spoke of his desire to help, we were so fortunate to become his volunteer home.

Gary came to us in 2005, on call for patients in care facilities where he would play guitar and sing to them. Kansas City Hospice House was built 12 years ago, and Gary volunteered to to spend two days each week. He stays however long he is needed. He is equally loved by staff and patients and has given over 10,000 hours of peace and comfort.

Music offers comfort on so many levels

At first, Gary found it a bit scary to go in and quickly determine what to play, but now he’s able to find immediate connection. Sometimes families are unsure about bringing in music, but Gary’s calm assurance puts them at ease. Often, Gary surprises families when the song they requested for their loved one touches them as much or more. He plays with eyes closed to give people the freedom to experience the moment privately. It’s particularly humbling for him when a patient passes shortly after a hearing Gary’s music.

Gary is a busy professional musician, but he’s always dedicated to volunteering. Many musicians realize the emotional impact of their music, but few take it to such a personal, intimate level. Gary has a passion for bringing music to the end of life experience with wisdom and insight. He “reads” the room and the current emotions to lead him where they most need him. Humble, loyal, kind and funny, Gary is the ideal volunteer, who focuses on the needs of others and gives of himself tirelessly and with joy. He simply embodies the Heart of Hospice.



  1. Judi Vogan on February 7, 2019 at 4:33 pm

    A wonderful, compassionate volunteer at Kansas City Hospice House. Loved by patients and staff.

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