LEOMINSTER — The Beacon of Hope’s Walk for Hope was created 29 years ago with the intention of raising both awareness and funds to support families taking care of loved ones with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Annually held in the spring, it’s been two years since the walk took place, with it taking a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But this year, the walk will go on.
The 29th Annual 5K Walk for Hope will be held beginning at 9 a.m. on May 15, at Barrett Park, 40 Barrett Parkway, and will be held rain or shine.
Registration on the day of the event will be held from 8 until 8:30 a.m., followed by the walk promptly at 9 a.m.
Prior to the walk, participants are invited to coffee and doughnuts and light refreshments will be served after the walk.
Each walker will also receive a goodie bag at the end of the walk.
The Walk for Hope is the second-largest fundraiser for Beacon of Hope, and proceeds help support programming for its members.
“I am proud to say that this year’s 5K walk will mark the 29th year that Beacon of Hope has been inviting the community to walk alongside us,” said Vicki Briggs, executive director of Beacon of Hope. “Our mission has always been to enhance the quality of life for individuals who experience life with intellectual and developmental difficulties and proceeds from this walk help us to continue to do so.”
Briggs adds that she is excited to be hosting the event at Barrett Park this year.
“We are ‘stepping’ out of our regular route through town and hosting the event at Barrett Park,” she said. “Walkers can be adventurous and hike one of Barrett Park’s trails or simply stroll around the beautiful pond.”
“Barrett Park is one of Leominster’s natural treasures and is accessible for people of all ages and abilities,” Briggs added. “Barrett Park makes it easy for people to walk as much or as little of the 5K as they would like.”
Each year, Beacon of Hope dedicates the Walk for Hope in memory of someone who has recently passed and who has shown great commitment and service to the organization.
“This year we walk in honor of Maria Briggs who has supported Beacon of Hope for the past 15 years,” Vicki Briggs said about her mother. “Maria was a major supporter and benefactor of all our fundraising endeavors and was a firm believer of inclusion for all. She was a true champion of our cause.”
Participants are asked to use a pledge sheet, which they can obtain online, and are urged to start telling family and friends about this special event.
“If you cannot walk that day, you can still help by collecting pledges and walking on your own,” Vicki Briggs said.
For the past 35 years, Beacon of Hope Community Services Inc. has been enhancing the quality of life for adults with developmental disabilities in the North Central area.
Beacon of Hope first began an overnight respite program in the late 1980s at St. Anna’s Church.
“This program accommodated four people each weekend and has evolved over the years and developed into a weekly evening respite program that accommodates and serves a greater number of individuals,” Vicki Briggs said.
Currently, the program is based out of St. Anna’s Church and supports 50 individuals, ages 18 years and older.
The program is held from 5 until 7 p.m. and serves a nutritious meal followed by various activities such as arts and crafts, games, karaoke, dancing, etc.
“The evening respite program gives participants a chance to socialize, meet people and form meaningful relationships,” Vicki Briggs said. “It also gives caregivers several hours of relief each week so they can have some time to themselves.”
Beacon of Hope also offers a Life Skills Training program.
“This program supports people who either live independently or are gaining the fundamental skills necessary to live on their own,” Vicki Briggs said. “The training provided focuses on meal preparation, health and well-being, safety, community access and more.”
Beacon of Hope operates through small grants, donations and fundraising events like the Walk for Hope. However, its biggest resource, Vicki Briggs says, is the volunteers.
“Our volunteers bring so much joy and happiness to our participants each week,” Vicki Briggs said. “They not only help with meal preparation, clean-up, activities, etc., they lend a listening ear and offer the simple kindness of asking how someone’s day is going. It has taken a lot to keep the Beacon running smoothly the past 35 years and the volunteers have provided many of the puzzle pieces that make the organization whole.”
The Beacon of Hope is always looking to welcome new volunteers, including board members who exhibit compassion and a sense of humor to add to this fun-loving group.
Beacon of Hope would like to acknowledge and thank local business sponsors of the Walk for Hope. These include Bernie Roy Construction, WDC Construction, Richardson Funeral Home, MP Crowley Co. Inc., Computer Down Under, Vietnam Veterans Chapter 116, LCU and Rollstone Bank & Trust.
“With its resilience and uniqueness, Beacon of Hope continues to play an important role in the community,” Vicki Briggs said. “People with intellectual and developmental disabilities often feel isolated. Beacon of Hope provides a safe and nurturing place where people can socialize, work on skills and build self-confidence.”
The first 100 walkers to register will receive a free T-shirt. For more information, or to register for the walk, email firstname.lastname@example.org; visit beaconofhopema.org; or call 978-840-2727.