LUTZ — Close to 600 people walked or ran in memory or honor of loved ones at the recent Hike for Hospice at Rasmussen College Land O’ Lakes/East Pasco Campus, where more than $56,000 was raised.
“From the starting line at the run until the memorial at the end of the day, you could feel the energy of the Hikers,” Linda Ward, president and CEO of Gulfside Regional Hospice, said.
Taking place over Veterans Day weekend, the event began with a salute to all former and current military personnel, Ward pointed out. Kelsey Bain sang the national and the color guard from Pasco Sheriff’s Office participated.
The 5K run attracted close to 175 runners this year, a record. Hundreds of walkers then took part in the event.
Celebrity guest Mike Alstott, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back, received a special presentation from Kristin West, 11. Kristin told the crowd how Gulfside helped her family after the death of her grandmother.
“Shortly after my grandma’s death, my sisters and I started to see a counselor from Gulfside Regional Hospice to help us with our grief,” Kristin said. “My favorite thing I have done with Gulfside is the Kids Camp because I got to meet other kids going through the same grief I’m going through.”
Alstott was on hand for the seventh year to help launch the festivities.
After the walk, Gulfside’s director of bereavement, Karl Knox, led a memorial service. Knox’s wife Elaine sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” during which balloons were released by participants.
Awards then went to high fundraisers and teams, as well as to the fastest runners in the 5K Run. Winners are:
• First-place team, Kanehl’s Kids with $3,500.
• Second-place team, Fabulous 4 with $2,112.40.
• Third-place team, the Ken Dolls with $2,100.
• First-place individual, Frank McCollister with $1,642.
• Second-place individual, Jo DeBolt with $1,200.
• Third-place individual, Amanda Long with $855.
• Fastest runners among men Paul Lefebvre with a time of 19:06.6; Charles Rosse, 20:04.1; and Martin Triplett, 20:30.4.
• Fastest runners among women, Elaina Cancello with a time of 22:58.6; Katherine Cancello, 22:58.7; and Patty Cain, 23:43.2.
• Fastest runners among youths age 15 and under, Nicholas Barbas with a time of 19:07.5; Brandon Bundick, 22:18.9; and Dalton Garafolo, 23:18.5.
All proceeds will aid patients and their families facing life-limiting illnesses in Pasco County, as well as support programs at Gulfside’s Hospice Houses and Bereavement Centers.
Hike for Hospice has raised more than $300,000 for Gulfside Regional Hospice since it began in 2007.
The nonprofit hospice serves more than 375 patients daily. Gulfside employs more than 250 professionals and has more than 550 volunteers. For more information call (800) 561-4883 or visit www.grhospice.org.