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Voices of Care Blog
Many of the members of the "Pickleballers"  took a break from their games to take a team picture.
Many of the members of the "Pickleballers" took a break from their games to take a team picture.

Pickleballers Trade Their Paddles for Walking Shoes

Posted on September 12, 2023 by Shaun Neville

By now, you’ve heard of pickleball. You might not know how to make a “dink shot” or where the “kitchen” is located. But you’ve seen (or heard) people playing the sport, which can resemble a miniature game of tennis.

At the Beverly YMCA, pickleball is big. Each week, it brings together dozens of dedicated players of varying skill levels. They come out to get some exercise, have fun and, of course, make friends. As they get to know each other, they’ve discovered many of them are looking for ways to give back to their community. And through personal experiences, one cause has tied many of them together: hospice.

“My parents were both with Care Dimensions about six and a half years ago,” said Francine Temkin from Beverly. “I do anything I can to give back to hospice, because the care was top notch and the love that they received from everybody was wonderful.”

Francine has been officially involved with Care Dimensions for about six years now, volunteering as part of the Patient and Family Advisory Council, which brings together members of the community and staff to enhance the hospice experience for patients and their families. This year, Francine is taking on a new role, serving on the Walk for Hospice Leadership Committee, which helps to organize the event. And she’s brought along a few pickleball players with her.

“I sat in on one meeting and they said they were looking for a few more members of the committee. I told them: I have a whole group who would love to get involved.”

Tina Zelano and Reenie Emo, fellow pickleballers from Beverly, quickly signed up. For Reenie, hospice has been all-too familiar this year, having four friends recently go through their end-of-life journeys.

“When I got a phone call asking me to volunteer for this, it was just the right time,” said Reenie.

“My uncle was recently on hospice,” said Tina. “His big thing was, he wanted to stay at home. The family called Care Dimensions and they were able to make that happen. The care was phenomenal. And he was able to remain at home until the very end.”

The group has appropriately named their Walk team “Pickleballers”. It will be among the biggest teams at this year’s event. Francine has been diligent about getting players to sign up and the group even held a pickleball tournament earlier this month to raise funds for the Walk. It brought in $840.

Part of this mission is fundraising, but another role they each serve is raising awareness of what hospice is and how it can help.

“I had a friend whose brother died this year and they waited too long because they weren’t given the information about hospice care,” says Reenie. “She now tells me ‘his final 24 hours were the best 24 hours he had in his last six months’ and she wishes she had called sooner. The care that you receive when on hospice makes all the difference in the world.”

Francine echos that sentiment: “When my parents were put on hospice, we had family who were upset with us. They’d say, ‘you’re giving up.’ I told them, ‘hospice doesn’t mean you’re dying today.’ It means bringing in an extra layer of support to make sure people are comfortable on their journey.”

The group has no plans of slowing down their involvement after the Walk and hopes to help with other  fundraising events in the future.

“It's a great conglomerate of people that just love to do things for other people,” said Tina. “We’re easy going. We all get along. And as soon as somebody says they need something, we all jump up.’”

“It's not work,” adds Reenie. “It's working together.”

As for pickleball, what does this group think is behind the surge in popularity?

“I think our group is very welcoming, but there’s also just something about the sport,” noted Tina. “It has a competitive edge, but it doesn’t feel competitive. When you show up, it doesn’t matter if you’ve never played before. Someone will show you how. And at the end of the day, no matter how good you are, you’re invited back. It’s really amazing.”

Make a donation to the Pickleballers walk team by clicking here.

Register for this year’s Walk for Hospice here.

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