VNA’s Groovy Stroll gives families a happy way to remember

VNA’s Groovy Stroll gives families a happy way to remember
By: Anekah Fish, Dan Petreikis Last Updated: May 3, 2021

On Sunday, community members in Valparaiso gathered downtown in front of the stage and under the pavilion to ready themselves for VNA of Northwest Indiana’s Annual Stroll fundraiser. This year was the Groovy Stroll, celebrating the 50-ish years of service from VNA of NWI.

“This is actually our 51st year,” said Bob Franko, CEO of VNA of NWI. “Since we didn’t get to do anything last year, this is our 50ish anniversary. It was 1970 when we started, so it’s the Groovy Stroll because we’re throwing it back to 1970.”

Groovy Stroll for Hospice 2021

Groovy Stroll for Hospice 2021 183 Photos
Groovy Stroll for Hospice 2021Groovy Stroll for Hospice 2021Groovy Stroll for Hospice 2021Groovy Stroll for Hospice 2021

The event truly was groovy. Attendees wore tie-dye, round sunglasses, and flower crowns referencing ‘70s fashion. Funk music played throughout the event to which guests danced, sang, and moved to the groove. Children played while holding balloons and their parents greeted friends and family, all waiting for the stroll to begin.

The stroll is annual, and some families have attended for decades. Groups in matching T-shirts laughing and being merry gathered around the square. Their T-shirts would have the name of a loved one who was in VNA’s care.

“My mother was in hospice nine years ago, and we have been attending the stroll since then,” said Robin Cahilland. “It’s showing support for the people that supported us. It was just phenomenal how much easier they made things for us.”

The event shows appreciation for VNA simply through attendance. Staff can reconnect with families they have worked with in the past. Hospice care is incredibly personal and emotional, so having time to catch up with past clients brings the experience full circle.

Attendees are also giving support in another way since the stroll functions as a fundraiser. VNA does around $1.2 million in charity care every year. This includes hospice, palliative care, meals on wheels, and more for those who cannot afford it. By attending the stroll, guests are able to give back to their community.

One of the groups at the event was Toni’s Troopers. Toni passed in 2017, but starting in 2018 her family and friends began walking in VNA’s stroll.

“Toni is my mother,” said Jamie Perz. “But she is also a grandmother, wife, sister, and aunt. She has many friends in attendance as well.”

Toni’s Troopers almost resembled a family reunion, as did many other groups with multiple generations in attendance all walking in a remembrance. However, the stroll was not somber; it was quite the opposite.

“It’s a nice way to get family and friends together that we haven’t seen for a while, but all of whom knew my mom,” said Perz. “It’s a nice way for us to be together and spread the mission of the hospice. In 2019 we had a team of 72 or 73 people, this year we are in the mid-40s. But all things considered, it’s a pretty good turnout!”

To learn more about VNA of Northwest Indiana, visit their website at