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This past weekend we witnessed the continued generosity of the wonderful folks in Goodland, as they continued with the 19-year tradition of the Goodland Boat Parade. The proceeds from the benefit will be donated to Avow Hospice, an organization that holds a special place in the hearts of many.

The parade dates back 19 years and came about from the idea of a then-fairly new resident to Goodland as Elaine Ritchie reached out to local community activist Betty Bruno for advice on how to proceed.

"Betty's advice to me was involve music," and we did, said Ritchie.

Another community leader that Ritchie reached out to was the owner of the Goodland Bay Marina, Dave Law, and his advice to her was do a daytime parade on the water to avoid running aground. Once again, Ritchie would heed that advice and the parade grew.

Ritchie would always remember that advice and the parade has always had a musical theme and held during the daylight hours.

The Goodland parade has continued to build into one of the most-anticipated happenings of the season. Thousands of residents, visitors and guests line up throughout the community to enjoy the special ambiance of a village that has become a gathering place to shield people from the ravages of the reality they leave behind.

Ritchie would eventually incorporate her effort as Mardi Gras Goodland Inc. and they would never look back as the effort grew year after year. Ritchie felt that the ability to make tax-deductible donations as a 501(c)(3) corporation would enhance the ability to fundraise, and it has.

This year, they were able to donate $16,402 to the Avow efforts.

Many of us have been touched personally or know of someone who has by the wonderful efforts put forward by Avow. The kindness, professionalism and comfort they bring cannot be praised enough.

The services they offer are widespread and can include in-home care as well as at facilities in Naples. The hospice care is not a substitution for the wonderful care received by family, friends or even other health-care providers, but instead as a supplement for those as the need arises.

I personally have had two great friends whom have had the privilege of being served by those wonderful members of the Avow team, and can only speak in the most glowing terms about the care they had received and to the comfort the team bestowed upon the families.

Dealing with the loss of one you love is never easy, but because of specialized training, they also help the living deal with the loss of a loved one. Helping in that transition is a vitally important role of Avow, and one that many sometime forget.

Needless to say, all of these services are costly and hence the wonderful efforts at the fundraiser in Goodland this last weekend are vitally important.

Avow was established in 1983 in Collier County and today will serve 1,700 patients and hundreds of family members annually. They will also see about 285 patients who reside in nursing homes, assisted-living facilities or within their own homes.

All of these services are provided through 165 full- or part-time staff.

In Collier County, 75 percent of those men and women who pass from us do so in hospice care and of that number, 73 percent are served by the professionals from Avow.

The wonderful volunteers in Goodland did their part this last weekend to ensure the outstanding professional care will continue.

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