OSWEGO — When the 21st Oswego County Hospice Regatta was canceled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Friends of Oswego County Hospice organization was left without one of its major annual fundraisers.
However, a new effort has set sail to try to make up for that loss, and also to remember longtime regatta volunteer Mary Stuart.
Oswego’s Amanda Baker, a former longtime board member of the Friends of Oswego County Hospice and a sailor in the yacht club, has started a fundraising drive on Facebook that is going strong.
Baker explained that the yacht club had taken over the regatta for this year because the Friends of Oswego County Hospice, due to staffing, could not support it this year as they had in the past. Baker, former Friends of Hospice director Debbie Bishop, and a small committee were going to oversee the regatta event.
Even with a regatta, they weren’t sure how much money could be raised without corporate sponsorships.
Then the pandemic forced the cancellation of the regatta. Without a regatta, Baker said she was going to reach out to those that have always participated, trying to raise money for the Friends of Hospice. “We usually get 15 to 20 boats, and I know those people were sad that they couldn’t participate,” she said.
Then came the passing of Mary Stuart.
“At the end of last month, we lost a good friend, Mary Stuart. Mary and her husband Hank had participated in the regatta since its inception as race committee chairs. They come from the Rochester area every year. They were honored to help us out with that. Mary passed away in hospice care in Monroe County.”
Baker said she then decided to do a fundraiser on Facebook in Mary’s memory. It continues through July 19. Those interested in contributing can donate or find more information on the Friends of Oswego County Hospice Facebook page or the Oswego Yacht Club Facebook page.
“We’re doing it in her memory so we could not only support hospice, but do it in her memory. I think she would be really happy to have it done,” Baker said.
The fundraising effort began June 21, the day after the Oswego County Hospice Regatta was scheduled to conclude. Baker set the original goal at $1,500 and within two weeks that total was surpassed.
Now, she is just hoping to raise as much money as possible to help Friends of Oswego County Hospice, which supports Oswego County Hospice through public awareness, professional education, and financial assistance. Funds raised are used for patient and family support, patient sunshine funds, staff and volunteer training and support, and Camp Rainbow of Hope.
“I wasn’t really sure what the response would be. We reached the goal pretty quickly,” Baker said, thanking all those who have contributed.
Elena Twiss, executive director of Friends of Oswego County Hospice, said she’s grateful to Baker for her efforts.
“She’s gotten a huge response already,” Twiss said. “We’re so thankful to her for her continuous support of the Friends of Hospice. She was on our board for years. With me being out on maternity leave the beginning of this year I wasn’t able to be part of the committee planning. She really spearheaded everything for that this year and got this fundraiser going. We’re thankful to her and supporters from the yacht club.”
The Friends of Hospice had to cancel a few of its events this year. “We’ve definitely taken a hit as far as our income. We are looking for ways to fundraise differently than we’ve done in the past. Definitely, losing the regatta this year has impacted us.”
While some scaling back has been necessary, “We are still able to help our patients and families in many ways. We are still able to provide those extras they may need,” Twiss said.
The Friends won’t be holding Camp Rainbow of Hope, their bereavement camp for children, this year. It’s a four-day, overnight camp where kids take part in fun camp activities as well as healing activities with counselors. “They learn how to deal with their grief as well as address those feelings that they’re having,” Twiss said.
The fundraiser in memory of Mary Stuart will help the Friends’ cause, and other fundraising efforts are in the works. Bottles and cans may be returned to Great Lakes Redemption Center, 159 E. Bridge St., Oswego. “They have a folder there for us. People can drop off their cans and say to give the money to Friends of Hospice,” Twiss said.
The group’s annual pancake breakfast fundraiser in Oswego is still scheduled.
Baker said both hospice and sailing have long been part of her life.
“My daughter just graduated from nursing school. She has participated with the hospice nurses in the Friends of Hospice program through Camp Rainbow of Hope, so she’s interested in maybe pursuing hospice nursing.”
Baker said she’s pleased with the progress of the fundraiser and hopes more money can be raised.
“I’m proud of how it’s come together. I don’t take a lot of credit. It was a couple of clicks and a couple of shares,” she said. “But I’m really proud of my friends, and the sailing community has really helped, too.”