Members of KK’s Keepsakes pose for their team photo at the 2018 Care Dimensions Walk for Hospice.
Each year since I was eight years old, I’ve looked forward to a special fall day that brings my family and friends together for good times and a good cause – the Care Dimensions Walk for Hospice.
Walk Day has become a tradition for us. This year, our team, KK’s Keepsakes, will participate in our 23rd Walk for Hospice as we raise funds to help patients and their families through a most difficult time. After we complete the Walk, we will once again gather at my Aunt Lynda’s house in Beverly for a cook-out featuring my Uncle Ron’s famous mac ‘n’ cheese and an afternoon of fun.
Importance of family and hospice
Our family got involved with the Walk for Hospice in 1997 after the passing of my Great Uncle Leo. His wife, my Great Aunt Marie, wanted to do the Walk and raise money after seeing firsthand how hospice care can make a tough situation easier for the patients and their families. We entered the Walk to honor his memory with the team name, ”Fore the Duke,” as Leo’s nickname was Duke and he loved to golf.
Our team name has changed over the years from ”Fore the Duke” to ”Katie’s Klan” to the current ”KK’s Keepsakes,” but our walkers have stayed consistent. 2017 and 2018 were our largest donation years to date!
Through the years, we learned about other friends and neighbors having hospice care before they died. Their family members were so grateful for the care and support. We offered to add their loved ones’ names to our Walk shirts, and they contributed to our team. Many of them still do.
Over the past two years our family has suffered the loss of my mom’s mother (my Nana) and my dad’s father (my grandfather). Both of them had hospice care at the end of their lives. The Walk has that much more meaning to me now.
My Nana was one of our team’s original walkers, back when we were ”Fore the Duke.” She started the after-party tradition and used to host our team at her house afterwards for a get-together! She even knit us pink scarfs one year to match our team shirts.
In September of 2017, my grandfather passed away while receiving hospice from Care Dimensions at his assisted living facility, where he had lived for over a year. It was my first time as an adult that I saw what hospice does – how it lessens the load for the family during a really awful time.
I watched as two nurses sat with my grandfather and helped him feel a bit better. I saw how they made sure he had everything he needed. After he passed away, one of the nurses continued to stay in touch with my grandmother and even met her for coffee. Having someone else there who knew what she was going through was refreshing and so important to all of us. They made us all aware of the grief support resources that were available to us. They understood that you don’t just “get over” a death of someone you love.
Continuing the Walk for Hospice tradition
Now, our team members are scattered about Massachusetts, but we’ll all come together again for Walk Day on September 29. For the past several years, some of my college classmates have walked with our team, so the tradition now includes a college reunion of sorts. I recently moved from Wakefield to Leominster with my fiancé; at last year’s Walk we celebrated our engagement, which happened the previous day! My parents live in Lancaster. Most of our team members are from the North Shore, but we also have a couple from Cape Cod and the South Shore. And my Aunt Lynda once again will have a post-Walk cook-out in Beverly.
I love the whole atmosphere of the day. It’s really neat to see people come together for a fantastic journey and a great cause. We’re helping families get through one of the toughest things they’ll ever experience. It’s a great feeling of togetherness – both at the Walk and afterward with family and friends. I look forward to continuing the tradition and hope to see you at St. John’s Prep in Danvers for the Care Dimensions Walk for Hospice.
Register for or donate to the Walk for Hospice at https://www.caredimensions.org/walk.
About the author
Kaitlyn King is Captain of the Care Dimensions Walk for Hospice team, KK’s Keepsakes.