LEOMINSTER — Beacon of Hope Community Services’ Walk for Hope was created 30 years ago, with the intention of not only raising awareness, but also funds, to support families taking care of their loved ones with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Held annually in the spring, this year’s walk will be held Sunday, April 30, rain or shine, at beautiful Barrett Park, located at 40 Barrett Parkway.
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. Participants are welcome to enjoy coffee and pastry before the walk begins.
Each year, Beacon of Hope Community Services dedicates the Walk for Hope in memory of someone in the community who has recently passed and who has shown great commitment and service to the organization.
“This year’s walk not only celebrates 30 years of community dedication but will also honor the memory of two very special people — Phil DeCisero and Kathy Ricker,” said Vicki Briggs, executive director of Beacon of Hope Community Services. “We honor passed members, volunteers, supporters, etc. each year to memorialize their connection and commitment to Beacon of Hope.”
This tradition began in 2011, honoring Beacon of Hope’s beloved member, Karen DeCisero.
Now 12 years later the walk will honor her father, Phil DeCisero, who propelled Beacon of Hope’s mission forward while serving on the board of directors for many years and offering his leadership as co-chair of Beacon of Hope’s annual golf tournament,’ said Briggs.
After Karen DeCisero’s passing, Phil DeCisero founded Karen’s Closet, a foundation that provides warm clothes to Leominster students in need and also supplies teachers with basic tools to help promote learning.
Beacon of Hope has also been the recipient of the foundation’s kindness and generosity.
“The Beacon of Hope held a special place in my dad’s heart,’ said daughter, Jillean Price. “As a parent of a child with special needs, it was such a comfort to him to know that Karen was not only welcomed and loved but encouraged to try new things and become more independent. It gave him such peace of mind whenever she was there.”
Phil DeCisero passed away December of 2022.
Kathy Ricker was introduced to Beacon of Hope many years ago when one of her sons invited her to attend the Annual Harvest Dinner.
Briggs said, “From that moment on, Kathy became a faithful supporter and attended both our fall gala and our annual Walk for Hope. Her sense of family and community as well as her warmth and kindness has always inspired us to continue to work with and for our members.”
“We walked in honor of Kathy’s husband, Bucky Ricker, in 2014,” Briggs added. “And we are happy to say that Kathy’s son, Ken Ricker is now president of Karen’s Closet, overseeing it since Phil’s passing.”
Ricker, who also passed away in December of 2022, is missed deeply by her family and friends.
“My mom was always about family and making sure everyone felt loved,” said Ken Ricker. “And if you weren’t family, she treated you like you were part of the family.”
The Walk for Hope is the second-largest fundraiser for Beacon of Hope Community Services, with proceeds supporting its programs.
“Our mission has always been to enhance the quality of life for individuals who experience life with intellectual and developmental difficulties and these proceeds help us to continue to do so,” said Briggs.
Beacon of Hope first began in the late 1980s, with an overnight respite program at St. Anna’s Church, and now 36 years later, Beacon of Hope Community Services continues to enhance the quality of life for adults with developmental disabilities in the North Central area.
An evening respite program is held from 5 until 7 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays and offers a nutritious meal, along with such activities as arts and crafts, games, dancing and more.
“We currently support 50 individuals, ages 18 years and older, at this program,” Briggs said. “It is a fun evening that gives participants a chance to socialize and hopefully form special relationships. It also gives caregivers some time each week to have to themselves.”
Beacon of Hope Community Services 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,” said Briggs. “The training focuses on meal preparation and healthy living.”
Briggs is appreciative of the funds raised, but adds that without the help of many volunteers, this program would not be a success.
“We would not be celebrating 36 years of service without the support of our volunteers,” said Briggs. “They are the heart and soul of Beacon of Hope and the glue that holds us together. Our volunteers not only help cook, serve meals, and wash dishes, etc., they also lend their talents and gifts each week. Each volunteer brings a different aspect and life experience to share with our group which fundamentally enriches the lives of our members as our members enrich their lives in return.”
Briggs would also like to thank t-shirt sponsors for their generosity: Avidia Bank, Contemporary Design & Construction, Vietnam Veterans of America #116, Webster First Federal Credit Union, Pepsi Cola Bottling of Worcester, Wright-Roy Funeral Home, Northeast Promotion & Apparel, Restoration Right, Economic Enviro Techs, WCU, Auburn Lodge of Elks #2118, M.P. Crowley Company, Hannaford, Computers Down Under, Team Missy, Pools & Cues & Spas, Too, Rick Sagendorph Builder, Richardson Funeral Home, LCU, Bernie Roy Construction, Worcester Truck Co., Rollstone Bank & Trust, Sonny’s Trailer Repairs, Global Fitness Center, DJs Auto Repair, Enterprise Bank, 3 Sons Healing, and IC Credit Union
“Beacon of Hope is essential to the community as we support some of the most overlooked people,” Briggs said. “We provide a safe and nurturing place where folks who experience life with intellectual and developmental disabilities can go to make friends, enhance their social skills, gain self-confidence, and enjoy a nutritious meal. We also offer several hours of much needed relief to caregivers each week. It is imperative to continue to raise funds to preserve the unique qualities of the organization and ensure Beacon of Hope is around for years to come to serve those in need.”
To register for the walk in advance, email email@example.com. The first 100 walkers to register will receive a free t-shirt. Carpooling is highly recommended due to limited parking. For more information, call 978-840-2727.