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Pedaling for Hospice

Members of the "Pedal Pushers" cycling team.
Members of the "Pedal Pushers" cycling team. Courtesy of Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region

At one of the worst times in someone’s life – caring for a dying relative – hospice offers families comfort and help. This month, many of those families will return the favor at the fourth annual Pedal the Park event.The Sept. 5 event is a fundraiser for Levine & Dickson Hospice House, the inpatient and residential facility of Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region, and will bring hundreds of cyclists to the 800-acre park around the house to pedal a 30 or 60-mile route. “We use events like Pedal The Park to care for those uninsured and underinsured,” says Peter Brunnick, President and CEO of Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region, one of the largest not-for-profit organizations in the Charlotte area and the largest not-for-profit hospice in the Carolinas. Levine & Dickson Hospice House, the first freestanding hospice facility in Mecklenburg County, focuses solely on making patients comfortable. “The key point is that hospice care is not something we do along with a bunch of other things,” Brunnick says. “It’s really focused on pain management and comfort care for patients.” A grief education center at Levine & Dickson Hospice House helps families of patients work through the emotionally taxing experience. “Our hospice care is family-oriented. It’s a very holistic form of care,” Brunnick says. Grief and bereavement care is offered to families for at least a year after the patient has died. “In another setting, when a loved one dies, the family has to walk away and wonder what’s next,” Brunnick says. “People walk away with a lot of guilt sometimes and question ‘What if? Did I do the right thing?’ Hospice gives people the relief of knowing that they did do the right thing.”Family members of patients frequently forge a powerful bond with the organization that draws them to participate in events like Pedal the Park. Among them are Scott Pennington and Leigh Kostoryz, both Charlotte natives, whose mother, Mary Kay, passed away under hospice care on May 21, 2010. “Levine & Dickson Hospice House gave our family a place to come and be together without interruption,” Pennington says. “Everyone that works for the center understands the emotions that are going on with families and their loved ones. It’s a place where you never have to explain the depth of your grieving because they live it every day with the patients and their families.”Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region has served over 30,000 people in the past 30 years, and Levine & Dickson alone has cared for over 1500 patients. And in the past three years, Pedal The Park has grown from a few riders to hundreds and has raised over $44,500.Last year on Sept. 6, their mother’s birthday, Pennington and Kostoryz – joined by members of their mother’s spinning class – formed a team, the Pedal Pushers, and biked for their mother. “I participate in Pedal The Park to bike for all of those patients that can’t but would love to be able to,” Pennington says. “It makes you really appreciate being healthy.”

More informationPedal the ParkSept. 5 at 8 a.m.Levine & Dickson Hospice House, in The Park-Huntersville, 11900 Vanstory Drive, Huntersville. 704-375-0100; www.hpccr.org.

Editor's note: For more of Scott Pennington's story, click here.

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