Virginia Brown: The Inspiration for Hospice Regattas
The story goes: Virginia Holland Brown, then Beeton, was standing at her kitchen sink one day more than 30 years ago, trying to come up with an idea for a fundraising event to benefit a nearby hospice that had helped her care at home for her late husband, Ralph Beeton.
She didn’t want to do another black-tie gala or dinner. Then she got a phone call from another hospice supporter, Josephine Erkiletian, who was interested in helping. “I was trying to think of something out-of-doors, perhaps on the water,” she recalled. We wondered what would work best.”
Brown reached out to another friend, avid sailboat racer Al Van Metre, to help out. His advice was to invite donors to enjoy a day cruising on the water, watching a sailboat race; give the racers plenty of trophies and a good party. It wasn’t long before the first Hospice Cup took place in Annapolis, MD, in September 1982.
Everyone involved was pleasantly surprised at its success, and eager to do it again. Virginia Brown led the charge to create an all-volunteer board and to place the event on the annual racing schedule in the area. For the next 20 years, she worked to continue the success of Hospice Cup, and responded to requests from other locations interested in a hospice regatta of their own.
Flash forward 30 years: On April 13, 2014, Virginia Holland Brown was honored with the establishment of the Virginia Brown Inspiration Trophy, dedicating to her the perpetual trophy for the Hospice Regattas Championship that she established in 2000.
Announcing the award, Alliance President Jean Kluttz said, “Without Virginia Brown, there would be no hospice regattas as we know them. Nor an Alliance that links them. Nor a championship! Dozens of communities would have less knowledge of and less money for their hospice services.”
Virginia Brown forged a volunteer career based on raising awareness and money for hospice care by creating a fundraising event model that inspired others to develop regattas in their communities to benefit local hospices.
Hospice Cup inspired dozens more charity regattas in the United States and Canada. Collectively, these events have netted more than $21 million to benefit local and regional non-profit hospices.
With a dozen regattas in place by 1999, Brown realized that there was potential for growth, and established the National Hospice Regatta Alliance (NHRA) as a way to connect the current regattas and make room for new ones.
In 2000, Brown organized the first national hospice championship regatta in Annapolis as a way to celebrate and connect all of the Alliance’s member regattas. These efforts were recognized in 2006 by the National Hospice Foundation, which presented Virginia Brown with its Philanthropic Inspiration Award (at a gala dinner in Washington, DC, as it happens).
At the 2013 trophy presentation, former US Sailing president James Muldoon also praised Brown’s efforts. “Hundreds and thousands of people benefited from your dedication, creativity and hard work,” said Muldoon, who was instrumental in building the popularity and success of the Annapolis regatta.
“You and your co-founders taught us all how to have a great time and raise money for a wonderful cause,” he continued.
“As a former president of the sport of sailing, I would like to thank you on behalf of all racing sailors for allowing us to be part of this wonderful hospice experience that continues to serve so many,” Muldoon added.
Now serving the Alliance as Founder/President Emeritus, Virginia Brown had her own take on the trophy re-dedication in her honor. “Thank you for the honor, but it is YOU who have been, and are, the inspiration for me,” she declared.