Spirits in the wind. That’s one way to think about the thousands of pennants that decorate the yachts that sail in San Diego Bay annually for the “Celebrating Life” Sharp HospiceCare Benefit Regatta.
Hosted by Sharp HospiceCare, Coronado Yacht Club and the Cortez Racing Association, proceeds from the regatta support Sharp’s Homes for Hospice program, which offers a unique environment for patients with a life-limiting illness, to meet their needs in a comfortable home setting. To date, the proceeds from the event have led to the completion of three San Diego County hospice residences in La Mesa, Del Cerro and, most recently, Bonita.
“Although the regatta is a worthy event that takes months to prepare for, we wanted to make sure that there was also a personal touch, a human element to the regatta to remind us why we are doing all this — to remember those who have passed and to celebrate their memory in a beautiful setting honoring them with loving messages,” says Suzi K. Johnson, former vice president of Sharp HospiceCare.
Sharp HospiceCare staff and volunteers handwrite every name and message on the white flags. The messages are from families and friends who have had a loved one in hospice care, as well as from regatta supporters.
“It is an honor to work on the pennants every year. Each one represents someone special and gives families the opportunity to express their love,” says Janine Lortscher, Sharp HospiceCare business development specialist.
Cay Hodge, who lost her son Frank Teixeira to ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) in 2010, has had pennant messages flown at the regatta for the last few years.
“Frank was like the pied piper,” recalls Cay. “Once you met him, you never left his side. His love for others made people gravitate toward him and want to care for him even in his final days.”
Frank was a surfer and loved the water. He rode waves with friends all over the globe, including Costa Rica and Hawaii.
“Having messages from his friends and family on the pennants, well, although we can’t ever get him back again, this is the closest way to have my son back out on the water, back to a place he enjoyed.”
During the regatta, many of the flags are flown from the riggings of spectator boats that follow the race boats as they make their way around San Diego Bay.
“In the past, we’ve had calls from families who’ve submitted pennant messages,” says Bill Navrides, director of development for the Grossmont Hospital Foundation, who helps coordinate the regatta. “They may not be on a spectator boat to watch the race, but they will ask us where they can stand along the bay to see the boat that will be displaying the pennant of their loved one. Sometimes just seeing that particular boat provides a sense of healing and peace.”