Spinnakers fly for a cause

When Susan Sorensen talks to community members about the beneficiary of the annual Reach for Hospice - Volunteer Hospice of Clallam County - she doesn't mince words recounting the great service that group does.

It's a gift to grieving and harried family members, one Sorensen could have used herself years ago.

A licensed nurse in the U.S. military in 1980, Sorensen says she could have used services like those Volunteer Hospice provides as she and her family cared for her ailing father all those years ago.

"It's very tough to take care of someone who's dying," Sorensen says. "Being a nurse I knew what to do ... (but) I wanted to be a daughter."

Sept. 20 marks the 15th Reach for Hospice race, a fundraiser that goes directly toward respite care for those caring for dying family members. Respite care provides nurses to attend to patients while family members take care of personal or other family business, things such as buying groceries or getting a haircut.

Sorensen was stationed in Arizona when her father began treatment for cancer. It seemed that whenever Sorensen's father asked her to come home, she'd find herself scheduled with an extended three-or four-day weekend. So began her red-eye flights to New York to care for her father, who lived 30-40 miles south of Buffalo, until he took a turn for the worse.

Wanting to pass his final days at home, Sorensen demanded he be released, and she stayed with him for his final days - 10, to be exact - at home.

In a way, Sorensen said, she was happy to be able to be there and say goodbye. But being the only family member who had nursing training, she said she felt a lot of pressure to know what was going on and to know what to do next. She simply wanted to grieve.

"That's why respite care strikes such a chord with me," she says.

The event began 17 years ago when Dr. Mike Crim, captain of Sailfleet, proposed a sailboat race to raise funds for Hospice of Clallam County.

In recent years, yacht club member George Chandler has helped push the race from less than $4,000 raised in 2001 to more than $24,000 last year. The race had at least 36 sponsors in 2007.

Since 1991, race donations totaling more than $106,732 have been donated to Volunteer Hospice.

The race also features a "Reward Ride," a new feature this year for donors of $100 or more. On Sept. 6, such donors get what Sorensen describes as a "three-hour tour" of Sequim Bay and possibly Protection Island, minus the Gilligan's Island storm. (To receive a "Reward Ride," donors need to have their donations in by Aug. 25 for planning purposes.)

"We want them to feel like they're getting something for their money," Sorensen says, noting that boat captains are donating time and gas money for the rides.

And for those interested in simply watching the race, Sorensen suggests a nice, cozy spot on the John Wayne Marina lawn.

"It's just a nice day to go to the marina and see the (boats) when their spinnakers are flying,' she says.

For more information about Reach for Hospice or Reward Ride donations, contact Ed English at 582-9916 or

Reach for Hospice - funds raised

1991 $1,574

1992 0

1993 0

1994 $927

1995 $1,760

1996 $1,510

1997 $1,820

1998 $2,465

1999 $2,715

2000 $3,542

2001 $3,937

2002 $6,615

2003 $9,585

2004 $11,478

2005 $14,011

2006 $20,347

2007 $24,443

Total $106,732

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