BRISTOL – Anne Cowan’s well-established reputation for using her bicycle to enhance the lives of hospice patients receiving care from Wellmont Health System is growing by several thousand more miles.
But her latest adventure, a cross-country trip set to begin June 10 and created to raise money for a special garden at Wellmont Hospice House, will be a little different. This year, she will be accompanied by her husband, Dr. Ben Cowan, a former medical director of the hospice house.
“It's been on our bucket list to do this together,” said Dr. Cowan, a retired oncologist. “We are both committed to supporting hospice and are pleased we can do something to help.”
The route will cover 4,200 miles on the Northern Tier from Western Washington State to Bar Harbor, Maine. It will be a self-supported ride, Mrs. Cowan said, meaning the couple will carry all necessary personal and bicycle gear on their bikes and camp most nights.
“It's really a prolonged camping trip,” Dr. Cowan said.
While the couple will complete an item on their checklist, the humanitarian purpose is to make a positive difference for patients who rely on the compassionate care available at the hospice house. The facility, located on the Bristol Regional Medical Center campus, is a 12,000-square-foot facility dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for patients facing life-limiting illnesses.
Funds raised through donations to the Great Bicycle Adventure 2013 will help transform the house's 20-year-old landscaping into a special hospice healing garden. The Cowans, who are covering all expenses for the adventure themselves, have also offered to match up to $25,000 of donations.
“This garden is a very much needed part of the hospice experience,” Dr. Cowan said. “Hospice is not just a sterile bed in a room. It's about life and family and healing, and this garden provides that connection.”
Donations for this trip have already started, Mrs, Cowan said, and plans are in the works for a daily online log of the couple's travels. The log, and donation forms, are available from Wellmont Foundation at www.wellmont.org by clicking the “Giving” link at the bottom of the homepage.
Mrs. Cowan has used her pedals before to advance the care at the hospice house through fundraising rides. It began in 2007, when she initiated her Great Bicycle Adventure with a trip from California to Florida. In 2008, she took her bike on a ride from Alabama to Canada. Then a year later, she rode across Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
Through those trips, Mrs. Cowan raised about $88,500 for the hospice house, which funded a renovation of the house’s lobby, vinyl siding and new countertops.
The Blue Ridge Quilter’s Guild honored her in 2010 by making a 10-panel quilt commemorating her bicycling trips.
“We are so grateful to the Cowans for continuing to contribute to the well-being of our patients and their families,” said Jackie Everett, clinical leader for Wellmont Hospice. “Dr. Cowan’s contributions to our hospice program were significant during his years as a medical provider, and Anne's previous bike rides greatly benefited our healing environment at the hospice house.
“Now we will have this special garden, which will be a wonderful addition and create an even more meaningful experience for patients and their families.”
Mrs. Cowan, who in addition to her innovative fundraising efforts still volunteers faithfully at Bristol Regional, shows no signs of waning in her commitment to hospice.
“There has never been any question hospice would figure prominently into any fundraising I do,” Mrs. Cowan said. “I fell in love with cycling and knew this was a way I could use that passion to provide an extra layer of comfort to patients who entrust their care to the hospice house.”