VALPARAISO | The Visiting Nurse Association's 13th annual Stroll for Hospice stepped off Sunday from a new venue with lots of new faces.
A record 300 people were expected at the walk, which started from Central Park Plaza and followed a two-mile route through downtown Valparaiso.
This year, it featured a picnic in the park, entertainment by the hospice choir and kids activities including a bounce house, obstacle course, crafts and face painting. There also was a photo booth to capture the fun.
“We're really trying to grow it,” said Maria Galka, vice president of fund development with the VNA. “We want to make this a way for families and friends to come together and celebrate the people they love and miss.”
Galka hoped to raise about $30,000 for the program, which cares for people with terminal illnesses and provides support to their families. Patients are cared for in their own home, a long-term care facility or the VNA Arthur B. and Ethel V. Horton Hospice Center in Valparaiso.
Shirley Seebeck, of Chesterton, was among the new faces at the stroll this year. Her husband, John, died last December. He had been a patient at the hospice center.
While the nurses made sure her husband was comfortable, they also looked after Seebeck, such as covering her with a blanket while she slept in a recliner next to her husband's bed.
“The people there are fantastic,” Seebeck said. “It was so much like a family feeling there.”
Seebeck was joined by a team of walkers including her niece, Elisa Angeles, of South Bend, who said hospice workers also were good at keeping the family informed of the process.
“They were like our extended family,” Angeles said.
Sarah Grcich, of Valparaiso, has walked for the past 10 years on behalf of her parents, Charles and Maryetta Oestreich.
This year she also is walking in memory of her husband, Michael, who died last November.
“We've been invested in hospice because we believe in the care and support they provide,” Grcich said. “The nurses give their heart and soul to their patients, and that is meaningful for the families.”
At least 25 walkers were expected to turn out for the Oestreich and Grcich families, who raised nearly $9,400.
Grcich said when her parents first moved to Valparaiso more than 60 years ago, they rented a house from Ethel Horton, for whom the hospice center was named many years later.
The Oestreichs remained in Valparaiso, raised a large family, and at the end of their lives, both received hospice care.
“The neatest thing is how the circle was fulfilled,” Grcich said.