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Hospice race gives rest to weary

For years, when it came to comforting those in need, Cliff Robinson was ready. A nurse by trade, he served as hospice nurse from 1994 to 2000, giving medical attention to those with terminal illnesses and a respite to their families.

This summer, when his wife Marijo got sick, Robinson found himself on the other end hospice's generosity.

"They were incredible, extremely supportive," says Robinson, a Sequim resident.

"Their nurses checked with me practically daily, as often as I needed it, (and acted as) a go-between with doctors. To be on the other side of it ... it's strange."

That's just one of a few stories local hospice organizations hear each year as they help patients and their families cope with end-of-life issues.

And that's exactly what sailboat captains and crew support each year with the Reach for Hospice race each fall as they contribute to Volunteer Hospice of Clallam County's respite care fund.

This year's race is set for Sept. 19. As in previous years, the race takes place on Sequim Bay.

In 2008, sailors and local business sponsors raised more than $25,000, which provides about 1,500 hours of respite care.

Susan Sorensen, publicity chair for the event, said the funds and hours of respite they provide for patients' family members are needed. She pointed to the fact that Volunteer Hospice was assisting 82 families and saw 30 deaths this June, up from 73 and 24 from last June.

Race organizers are also seeking sponsors at various giving levels - Commodore ($900), Fleet Captain ($500-$899), Skipper ($200-499) or Race Crew ($100-199).

Donations to Volunteer Hospice through the "Reach for Hospice" race are tax-deductible. Race organizers are also looking at printing and offering for sale Sequim Bay Yacht Club canvas bags.

Sorensen said they expect about 14 boats on Sequim Bay for this year's race.

"Every year we try to beat last year's total," Sorensen said.

Sorensen, who like Robinson was trained as a nurse, says the event is worthwhile even if contributors have never used hospice before.

"I guess this is a way of paying it forward," Sorensen says. "There may be a time you have to use it (hospice). Hopefully not, but if you do, it's nice to know it's there."

Robinson says the hospice nurses certainly helped when his wife Marijo, a longtime worker at the Sequim Post Office, became sick and finally passed away.

"It got harder and harder to bathe her on my own," Robinson says. "We nurses, we think we should know it all (but) you can't be a husband and nurse."

To become a sponsor or for more information about the race, contact event chair Edward English at 460-1751 or 582-9916, or by e-mail at: ejsailor@att.net.

Reach Michael Dashiell at miked@sequimgazette.com.

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