Susan Brodeur’s mother checked into the Visiting Nurse Association’s Respite House in 2003 after a terminal cancer diagnosis.
Staff went out of their way to keep care for her mind body and spirit for six months, Brodeur said, including helping her apply her signature lipstick and keeping a rosary nearby at all times.
“Truthfully, I consider them to be true angels,” Brodeur said, noting she spent several nights sleeping on a pullout couch in her mother’s room. “They become like your extended family … They catered to every need.”
Brodeur, a longtime Milton resident and avid runner, said she knew she wanted to give back to the organization instantly and signed up for that year’s annual fun run. Then, the 5K race ended at the old Williston Respite House facility and her wheelchair-bound mom was able to cheer her on as she crossed the finish line.
Fourteen years later, she’s prepping to run the race for the 15th time — and has already raised $1,100. Her fundraising mission has taken on a special meaning lately: Brodeur’s father died at the new Respite House facility in Colchester last summer.
More than a decade apart, both of her parents were placed in the “giraffe room” in the respective houses, Brodeur said, a happening she considers a blessing to the family.
This year’s fundraising run kicks off at 8 a.m. on Saturday, May 5 at the Malletts Bay School. Participants are invited to walk, run or stroll the 5K loop as they help the VNA reach its $75,000 goal for 2018. Last year’s fun run raised more than $40,000 for the Respite House.
VNA development director Ayeshah Raftery said the run is shedding its former “Jiggity Jog” name for the first time this year to make it clearer the event is open to non-runners, too.
They will also have lawn games, a tent with a smoothie-making bicycle, music and medals for the timed winners in each category, Raftery said.
The 5K race comes as Brodeur trains for the Vermont City Marathon next month, but Raftery said folks are more than welcome to take a much slower pace out on the course.
“Basically, we just want to have fun,” Raftery said. “We want people to come out and learn more about the Respite House and our staff and hope to increase interest in the house.”
The VNA completed its Respite House campaign earlier this year, raising $7.1 million to fund construction of a larger facility in Colchester. The house was previously in Williston.
Since the house opened in September 2016, admissions have increased by 50 percent, according to the VNA.
Brouder said that’s part of her motivation when she preps for the run every year, sharing her experience along the way. Friends have decided to volunteer with the VNA or even brought their loved ones to the Respite House thanks to her story, she said.
For more information about the VNA Fun Run and Walk, visit their informational page.