The 11th annual Bike Michiana for Hospice and the 34th annual Walk for Hospice was hosted this weekend by Center for Hospice Care (CHC) and Hospice Foundation. The ride and walk began and finished next to the beautiful Central Park along the St. Joseph River in Mishawaka. This was the second year the two events were combined, and successful at that.
"We brought this event to the Center for Hospice Care campus to highlight what the funds support," said Hannah Nichols, Communications and Events Coordinator for the Hospice Foundation. "Center for Hospice Care has made a promise that no one eligible for services in our nine-county service area will be turned away regardless if they can pay for our services.”
Fundraisers like these give Center for Hospice Care the funds needed to care for their patients as well as allow them to fulfill their mission.
“In the last four years, CHC has provided almost $8 million in charity care. These fundraisers go a long way in helping us keep that promise,” Nichols said.
William Geyer experienced firsthand the impact Center for Hospice Care has when his dad received comfort in his parents’ home.
"They provided incredible selfless care. I don't know where they find these people. They give so much of themselves,” Geyer said.
Following his experience, Geyer then recommended Center for Hospice Care services to aunts, uncles, and others who had loved ones in need. As a result, William and his Geyer Construction team find this as a way to give back to Center for Hospice Care every year.
For some, this has been a long-standing tradition. Lenny the bagpiper has led the procession of walkers for so many years, he cannot recall the number. For Miss Indiana Gabby Mammolenti, this was her first time participating. She was with her grandmother, Pat Mammolenti, who lost her husband Roy. Gabby was walking in honor of him.
"Center for Hospice Care was a great resource for us," Pat Mammolenti said.
As cyclists took to their ride in honor of loved ones, walkers were led by bagpipes on a special remembrance walk of their own. While there were many smiles, laughter, and shared memories during the walk, the bridge stop for the Rose Petal tradition was solemn. Only the sound of rushing water could be heard as walkers paused to drop rose petals into the St. Joseph River below.
"It's a very special moment for a lot of our walkers as they are typically walking in memory of a loved one," Nichols said. “For the cyclists, a poignant display was the Memory Wall.”
“In the past, it was a tradition for the walkers, but last year we brought it over for the cyclists and they loved it. Cyclists write special words or draw on their bibs or on little paper shoes and bicycles in memory of loved ones. They then hang those for display on the wall. The wall is then moved over for the post-event for all to be shared,” she added.
After completing the rides and walks, it was back to smiles, laughter, and even the occasional shy dancing to music as participants and volunteers were treated to a sponsored, post-event celebration.
As participants finished their celebration and prepared to finish the day of memorable events, many paused at the Memory Wall for one last moment. After a silent, long pause, they would exhale, smile, and walk over to the nearby Center for Hospice Care staff to thank them.