Gene Lovelace and his wife, Cindy, were vacationing in St. Petersburg, FL, in April 2013 when they noticed a fleet of sailboats racing on Tampa Bay. “It’s a hospice regatta,” another vacationer told them.
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An avid sailor as well as a hospice chaplain, Gene went straight to the St. Petersburg Yacht Club to learn more. After meeting National Hospice Regatta Alliance president Jean Kluttz, he determined to bring the hospice regatta idea home to Nashville, TN.
So in April 2014, Nashville’s Harbor Island Yacht Club (HIYC) hosted the Alive Hospice O. L. Shultz Regatta on Old Hickory Lake to benefit a community-based, non-profit hospice serving middle Tennessee.
“Some people are shocked to learn that we race sailboats in Nashville,” Lovelace says. “It’s neat to have an opportunity to tell the story of sailing – and the story of hospice – to the people of greater Nashville,” he adds.
The regatta is named in honor of O.L. Shultz, a longtime HIYC member and past commodore who died at Alive Hospice’s Residence Nashville last year.
“O.L. raced until he was well into his 80’s on his boat, called ‘Respite,’” Lovelace adds. “He was rarely seen without his trademark bucket hat.”
Blending his passions for hospice and for sailing, Lovelace persuaded both Alive Hospice and HIYC that it made sense to collaborate on a charity regatta.
“You’ve got to catch the wind,” he says. “It’s been great to see so much excitement and enthusiasm from both organizations.”
Like many clubs with active racing programs, HIYC already had a full schedule for 2014. However, the HIYC Board decided to re-name one of its oldest regattas as the Alive Hospice O.L. Shultz Regatta.
Now in his 19th year as a hospice chaplain, Lovelace made sure to integrate hospice ideas into the regatta. Memorial burgees that could be purchased to honor loved ones were flown on racing boats following a ceremony by the club’s Sea Scouts. Lovelace also organized a Blessing of the Fleet for both weekends of racing, April 12-13 for PHRF-rated boats and April 26-27 for Vanguards, J-22s and other one-design fleets.
In addition to the racing, Alive Hospice and HIYC hosted a “Splash Party” at a new building on the Cumberland River in downtown Nashville. Described as a gala “with boat shoes, no ballroom,” the party featured cocktails, dinner and live entertainment.
Many HIYC members worked long hours side by side with hospice staff and board members to plan all the activities and bring the weekends together. “It’s a true community effort,” Lovelace declared.
Alive Hospice provides more than $1 million in charity care each year, including hospice and grief services. The regatta will help other Middle Tennesseans in 12 counties receive the same care that O. L. Shultz and his family did, Lovelace said.