Sunday afternoon the Visiting Nurses Association hosted their 16th Annual VNA Stroll for Hospice at Central Park Plaza in Valparaiso. Over 300 people ready to take a stroll and almost 80 volunteers gathered together in memory of loved ones and in support of the the VNA as they continue to provide compassionate care for patients and their families all around Northwest Indiana.
“This is our 16th year doing the Stroll for Hospice,” said Maria Galka, Director of Development for the VNA. “It will start with a two mile walk around downtown Valparaiso, and then afterwards, we will have a picnic lunch for all the participants and volunteers and some activities for everyone to enjoy.”
The Visiting Nurses Association is a nonprofit organization focused on providing patient centered care for those dealing with the aging process or terminal illness. Since opening their doors to the Porter County community in 1970, the organization aims to celebrate the lives of the individuals they serve and their families, which they could not do without the continued support of the community.
“The whole mission of the VNA is to keep people safe and independent as long as possible in their own homes,” said Galka. “We are one of the few remaining VNA programs in the state. So the community support continues to enable us to do what we do, and it’s not just hospice. If we didn’t have the community support, we wouldn’t be able to do it.”
People from all over Northwest Indiana came to Central Park Plaza to remember the family and friends they’ve lost and to show support for the services the VNA provides. Supporting the VNA serves as a way to thank them for the support they offer during some of the most difficult times of peoples lives.
“My girlfriends mom just used VNA. She just lost her mom last week, and so this was significant and I’m here to support her and the great work VNA does,” said David Lain, Former Sheriff of Porter County and a former VNA Advisory Board Member. “I’ve known a lot of people around VNA – my mother partook of some VNA services before her death several years ago. VNA does what they do for the right reasons. They do it for the need and I respect that.”
After registration and a short opening ceremony honoring veterans who were participating in the event, the walk got underway. Participants walked two miles through downtown Valparaiso and along the way, received refreshments and delicious food from local businesses, like Pikk’s Tavern and Ben’s Pretzels. Once completed, participants were free to return to Central Park Plaza for a picnic lunch, music, a bounce house, and various other activities that were fun for all ages.
The fun afternoon was not without some bittersweet moments as families and friends remembered people they have lost. What mattered, though, was the memories of those loved ones and the opportunity to celebrate their lives.
“During the stroll, we’re able to honor the people that we’ve lost,” said Ann O’Heir, President and CEO of the Visiting Nurses Association of Northwest Indiana. “It’s not a sad time, this is a way for us to celebrate their lives.”
For more information about the Visiting Nurses Association, visit www.vnanwi.org.