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Running for ‘Gramma Pat’

Observer courtesy photo Patricia Buckler, aka Gramma Pat, at her 80th birthday.
Observer courtesy photo
Patricia Buckler, aka Gramma Pat, at her 80th birthday.

Local woman raises money, awareness for Vermont Respite House

Rachel Drew remembers the feeling she had the first time she walked into the VNA Vermont Respite House to visit her Gramma Pat. “It was like walking into a living room. It put me at ease and it made me feel very comfortable.”

Patricia Buckler, aka Gramma Pat, had been living at the Pines Senior Living Community in South Burlington when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and, later, a massive brain tumor. Her care needs were too great to stay at home. A case manager at the hospital told her family about the Respite House.

“Gramma Pat was given incredible, compassionate care at Vermont Respite House. We will forever be grateful for what they did for Gramma Pat and for our family,” Drew said.

On May 9, Drew is doing her part to give back by running in the Vermont Respite House 5K Fun Run and Jiggety Jog. Every dollar raised will support the care of residents with terminal illness and their families.

This will be Drew’s second year participating in this annual, family-friendly event. This year, the Fun Run falls on her 29th birthday. She can’t think of a better way to celebrate and to honor Gramma Pat.

“It’s such a positive event and a really uplifting atmosphere with wonderful volunteers. This is a cause very close to my whole family’s heart. I’ll be participating as long as I live in the area,” Drew said.

Drew is keeping up a family tradition. Her mother, Lisa Bruce (Gramma Pat’s daughter), was the top fundraiser at the 2008 Fun Run and Jiggety Jog, raising more than $1,900 the Spring after her mother passed away at Respite House.

“I felt an emotional ease once my mom was at Respite House,” Bruce said of her experience in 2008. “And, every time I visited, I was asked ‘what do you need’? I received hugs from everyone — from kitchen staff to house managers to volunteers.”

Last year, Bruce passed the Fun Run torch to Drew when hip issues prevented her from participating in the event. Drew has high hopes she’ll surpass her $1,000 fundraising goal this year. Participants who raise $1,000 or more become members of the Jiggety Jog Club and are honored for their achievement at a ceremony following the race.

Drew echoed her mother’s sentiment about the comfort Respite House staff provided to the whole family, in addition to the excellent care Gramma Pat received. The family was grateful, Drew said, for counseling from staff on how to say goodbye.

“We all took turns sitting around her bed and saying ‘I love you.’ I think it was really cathartic for everyone, having that chance to say goodbye,” Drew recalled.

Drew was a college student at the University of Vermont with a full class schedule, a part-time job and theater rehearsals when Gramma Pat arrived at Respite House. If Gramma Pat had been in a hospital, Drew said she would not have been able to visit in evenings after school and work. Also, the environment would not have felt so warm and inviting.

Drew has sweet memories of those last weeks with Gramma Pat, the two of them spending time in her private room, listening to music.

“We had a little CD player. She loved Michael Bublé. I would sit next to her chair and hold her hand and we would listen together,” Drew said.

Drew will honor those memories on May 9 and also help make sure other families can have quality end-of-life experiences with loved ones at the Vermont Respite House Fun Run and Jiggety Jog.

No one is turned away from Vermont Respite House based on inability to pay. About 40 percent of the Respite House budget comes from community support each year, including the money raised at this event, the largest annual fundraiser for Respite House. Last year, Respite House served 214 people with terminal illness, providing them a home-away-from-home to live out their remaining days in dignity, surrounded by family and friends.

Visit www.vnacares.org/run to register for this year’s Fun Run or sponsor an individual or call 802-860-4435 for more information.