Alice Christian’s husband spent two years in the Visiting Nurse Association’s McClure Miller Respite House after he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, far longer than the average two-week stay at the hospice care facility.

As the months waned, the Colchester resident said she got to see firsthand — for more time than most — just how caring the staff members were as they supported her husband and a host of other people in their transitions to death.

“He didn’t have insurance, so we felt really lucky that there was this place that existed that would take him in when I couldn’t take care of him at home,” Christian said.

When her husband died in 2003, Christian said the house staff just about saved her life. It took time for her to figure out where to go next, but she eventually went to graduate school and later remarried.

Despite her immense gratitude, Christian said it still was difficult for her to go back to the house and volunteer. Participating in the annual fun run/walk was the perfect way to say thank you.

On left, Sharon Keegan, Manager of the McClure Miller VNA Respite House, cheers on Heather Rylant of Colchester at the 5km Fun Run and Jiggety Jog at Mallets Bay School in Colchester on 13 May, 2017. (DARIA BISHOP for the VNA)

Last year’s fun run raised more than $40,000 for the Respite House. Christian earned the title of top fundraiser in 2015 and again last year, according to the VNA. In her seven years of participation, Christian said she has raised a total of $11,522.

This year’s event kicks off at 8 a.m. on Saturday, May 5 at the Malletts Bay School. Participants are invited to walk, run or stroll the 5K loop as they help the VNA reach its $75,000 goal for 2018.

Christian has run the event every year, save for one when she ran the Vermont City Marathon instead. Even so, she logged the 26.2 miles wearing a sign that informed spectators she was running for the Respite House.

VNA development director Ayeshah Raftery said the run is shedding its former “Jiggity Jog” name for the first time this year to make it clear the event is open to non-runners, too.

They will also have lawn games, a tent with a smoothie-making bicycle, music and medals for the timed winners in each category, Raftery said.

“Basically, we just want to have fun,” Raftery said. “We want people to come out and learn more about the Respite House and our staff and hope to increase interest in the house.”

The VNA completed its Respite House capital campaign earlier this year, raising $7.1 million to fund construction of a larger facility in Colchester. The house was previously in Williston.

Since the house opened in September 2016, admissions have increased by 50 percent, according to the VNA.

Christian said she began volunteering at the Respite House after it moved to Colchester, serving meals to residents and their families. Her second husband is going through the volunteer training process now.

“It was a little hard, but really surprisingly it felt welcoming,” Christian said. “I felt like, wow, I get it.”

For more information about the VNA Fun Run and Walk visit their website. Their fundraising page can be found here.