*** This story was published June 17, 2010 in the Bristol Herald Courier. ***
BRISTOL, Tenn. – One woman's 6,500 mile cross-country journey – undertaken to benefit the end-of-life journeys of local hospice care patients – was memorialized in a quilt that is now a focal point of the hospice's lobby.
Bristol resident Anne Cowan, in three separate bicycling trips, raised more than $88,000 for the Wellmont Hospice House. So the hospice and Cowan's quilting group joined forces to recognize and honor her dedication – by creating a 10-panel quilt depicting her bike trips and displaying it in a place of honor in the hospice's newly renovated lobby.
The quilt, titled "Life's Journey," includes 10 panels mounted side by side. Each panel was created by a member of Cowan's quilting group, the Johnson City-based Blue Ridge Quilters Guild, and depicts a different part of America. A bicycle path winds through each panel and is the thread that connects the individual pieces.
"We chose areas Anne may have gone through," said Louise McKenna, the guild's president. "We had a good time doing it."
The quilters are able to follow Cowan's bicycle trips via her blog, http://www.annebikes.blogspot.com.
Cowan said both the quilt and the dedication were a surprise.
"It's incredible," she said. "[It's] a wonderful culmination of my journey."
Jackie Everett, clinical leader for Wellmont Hospice, said the quilters did a fabulous job, creating a perfect recognition of Anne's contributions.
"I really wanted there to be a way to honor Anne, and I knew that other than her husband and bike riding, the other thing she really loves is quilting," Everett said.
The quilt is the centerpiece of the main wall of the hospice lobby, which was renovated with the money Cowan raised. The lobby was dedicated Wednesday in honor of Anne Cowan and her husband, Ben, a retired oncologist.
Quilts belonging to staff members adorned the lobby walls during the reception.
"We all just wanted to really play up the quilt theme and all the journeys," Everett said. "Hospice is all about the journeys."
The Wellmont Hospice House was the first freestanding hospice care facility in Tennessee when it was built in 1996. Today, it is the only one between Knoxville and Charlottesville, Va., Everett said. The facility holds eight beds, and three teams of nurses cover a 35-mile radius of all Wellmont facilities for at-home hospice care.
Everett said Wellmont staff members see between 70 and 80 patients a month.
She said the renovated lobby is "just a gift," as is the ability for hospice staff and volunteers "to be able to share our journey with the journeys of our patients."
Cowan said she became interested in fundraising for hospice care in part because her husband used to be the facility's medical director, and in part because of her personal experience with loved ones in hospice care.
"It's a wonderful, wonderful outfit," she said. "[It's] a great way to have end of life care, and support for families."
Ben Cowan said the Bristol community has been supportive of the Hospice House, and helped raise more than $2 million to build it.
"It's really a testimony to the citizens of Bristol, to respect this part of life," he said. "We all get here."
He said the lobby and quilt dedication was "like winning the lottery."
Ben Cowan recently returned from a bike trip himself, and his wife said she plans to head out again Saturday for a week-long ride in Ohio. Family obligations currently prevent them from being away at the same time, she said.
"The next big ride, we're going together," she said.