On Sunday, May 1st, Central Park Plaza, Home to the Northwest Health Amphitheater in downtown Valparaiso was packed with families who came to remember their loved ones at the annual VNA Hospice of Northwest Indiana Stroll for Hospice event. Held every year on the first Sunday in May, families of all sizes from around the area gather for the fun, activity-filled event with raffles, a bounce house, food, and much more. Even with the drizzling rain and frigid winds, the turnout was fantastic for VNA Hospice.
“People are here today that are walking in memory of somebody, and it’s just a fun way for people to remember loved ones," said VNA Hospice CEO Bob Franko.
One of Franko’s favorite traditions from the event is watching the teams come together to represent a loved one.
“I love seeing and hearing all of the stories, it gives all of us a chance to meet through these teams," Franko said.
The teams came prepared to represent their loved ones with matching outfits, props, and signs along the stroll.
Kathy Wriston, a first-year attendee of the stroll and whose mother was served by VNA Hospice, gave great praise to Franko and the staff at VNA Hospice for the great care of her mother.
“The nurses, they’re not there because it’s a job for them, they’re there because they care about their people,” Wriston said.
She appreciates how hard the staff works to make sure her mother is as comfortable as possible. It's a huge weight off Wriston's shoulders knowing her mother is well taken care of and the staff always have her mother's best interests in mind.
“They just made her feel more comfortable and expressed to her that if she didn’t want it that it was okay and they’ll find another way to do things,” Wriston said.
Although this was her first year at the Stroll, Wristion knows without a doubt she'll be back in coming years.
“We’ve all lost a loved one or are in the process of losing a loved one, and to know that there’s a community out there bigger than your family is amazing,” said Wriston.
The stroll also brought along a vast crew of volunteers, who helped run the event. Chris Johnston, a volunteer at the administration building, worked the sign booth at the event and shares that she enjoys seeing the families outdoing themselves every year.
“People who have done it before know that they’re going to decorate a sign, so they bring pictures, stickers, or streamers to make their sign stand out, and it’s just a way that they have happy memories of their loved ones,” said Johnston.
Through events like the Stroll for Hospice, the VNA Hospice is bringing its mission of “Making the best days possible” into reality. This year’s event raised over $20,000 to support end of life care throughout Northwest Indiana.
For more information about VNA Hospice of NWI or how to help make best days possible please visit vnanwi.org.