Pleasanton Weekly

Cover Story - May 21, 2010

Hiking for Hope

Volunteers, supporters raise $80,000 in walk for Tri-Valley hospice care

by Jeb Bing

More than 700 supporters of Hope Hospice walked the trails in the Sunol Regional Wilderness earlier this month in the center's first annual Hike for Hope.

The event, which attracted experienced hikers and families out for a walk in the wilderness, also appealed in a very special way to those who spent the day remembering a loved one. Groups participating included the Palo Alto Medical Group, Chevron employees, the Tri-Valley Wine Club, the Tri-Valley Newcomers Club, and Nightingale Nursing. 

The day began with hikers donning Hike for Hope T-shirts and lanyards holding the photo of the person they were remembering. Along the trail, Stan Goldberg, author of Lessons for the Living, serenaded guests with music from Native American and Japanese flutes, while Hike for Hope committee members distributed park-sanctioned seed packets inscribed with a special poem, whose author is unknown:

In the rising of the sun and in its going down,

We remember you.

In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,

We remember you.

In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring,

We remember you.

In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of summer,

We remember you.

The Hike for Hope committee, a group of nature lovers and Hope Hospice supporters who started planning the event six months ago, represented communities in the Hope Hospice service area from Alamo to Livermore and Castro Valley.

Dolores Bengtson, chairwoman of the Hike for Hope committee, crafted educational brochures to help hikers recognize wildflowers in bloom.

"The day of the event was a beautiful day, and many hikers--young and old--experienced the beauty of spring time in our Sunol Regional Wilderness Park," Bengtson said. "Wildflowers were blossoming, the hills were green, and the oak trees were magnificent. Many of the hikers were hiking in memory or in honor of a loved one, and were given wildflower seeds to scatter and also a brochure to identify the various flowers that were in display along the trails."

Kathy Molinari, a committee member whose late parents received Hope Hospice care, worked with Bengtson in planning the event.

"As I handed out the seed packets with my sister, I knew my parents were with us in spirit," Molinari said. "The concept for Hike for Hope was born out of the idea that a nature hike reflected most accurately the spirit of hospice work."

Donna McMillion, development director of Hope Hospice, added, "We believe in making every moment count and in affirming life every step of the way. A hike in the hills among the oak trees, when nature is at its springtime peak, just seemed to make sense as a way for families to be together, enjoying the outdoors, and supporting a good cause."

Hope Hospice board and staff members brought their children. Drs Peter Wong and Michael Malek, medical directors for the organization, were there as well as board member Kirsten Barranti, an attorney and nurse.

"Sunol is a beautiful location to hike to remember those who are no longer with us but received excellent care by the staff of Hope Hospice," Barranti said. "As part of our hike, we enlisted our 5-year old son to sow the seeds of fundraising by teaching him to help others in need. It was a perfect day."

In all, there were 735 registered hikers and over $80,000 was raised from the hikers, their sponsors, and the event sponsors.

"We wish to express our deepest appreciation to the many individual and business members of the community for their support of the Hike for Hope event," said Helen Meier, executive director. "Proceeds raised by Hike for Hope will be an enormous help in these difficult economic times."

The Hike for Hope also marked the 30th anniversary of Hope Hospice, the area's leader in end-of-life care and at a time when more Americans turn to hospice services for comfort care at home. Hospice care has evolved over time and is now considered an essential option of support services for families whose loved ones face a life-limiting illness.

Hope Hospice had its beginnings in 1978 when a group of Pleasanton and Livermore residents became concerned about terminally ill people facing the end of life as they remained in the hospital. Led by Richard L. Martin of Pleasanton, who was working as a church deacon in local hospitals, the group began to meet and to learn more about the hospice philosophy of care.   The early objective was to respond with compassion to the emotional, physical, social and spiritual needs of terminally ill people and others affected by the loss of a loved one. 

Martin said that on one of his hospital visits he asked the staff about the people "at the end of the hall" and was told that they were terminal, that nothing could be done for them. He wondered why those patients weren't sent home and was told that their health insurance would no longer cover them. They couldn't afford to go home nor to a convalescent home which would cost them even more.

After he and other volunteers visited a hospice in San Rafael, he said: "I took the new found knowledge to some 'can-do' people in our community and they literally took off and managed to find ways to implement the entire program." Thus, the idea for a local home care hospice was born.

Incorporated in February 1979, Hope Hospice was initially formed in a small storage room at Pleasanton Elementary School. One of the earliest volunteers, Ann Rathjen, remembered reading about it in a newspaper and decided to join the effort.

"We were all in one big room," she recalled. "We got to know each other really well!"

The team moved to its first office building in Dublin in 1987. Last fall, Meier led her staff in dedicating Hope Hospice's new headquarters and training facility -- a 14,850-square-foot complex at 6377 Clark Ave.

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