Betty Leonard Reflects on Friends of Hospice Oktoberfest

As Friends of Hospice Celebrate their 31st annual Oktoberfest
Betty Leonard Reflects on the First Event

The weather was especially hot for the Friends of Hospice’s 31st annual Oktoberfest event.  The signature fundraising event has something for everyone: food, music, and silent and live auctions that include vacations and weekend get-aways; fine wines from local wineries; original artwork by local artisans; tickets to sports events and shows; and gift certificates to the area’s best restaurants, stores and beauty salons. Each year, hundreds of supporters attend what has become a community treasure and a way to support our county’s only non-profit hospice organization.

Recently Betty Leonard, one of the founding members of the Friends of Hospice, sat down with us to reflect upon the first Oktoberfest event in 1983.  “It all started with Julie King,” explained Betty.  “She was the one who had the idea for a fundraiser – a big party for Hospice,” she added.  A longtime resident of La Selva Beach who died in 2012, Julie is remembered by friends for her continuous and gracious hospitality and her knack for throwing excellent parties.  “There were five of us and we just went around asking all our friends to give what they could to make the event a success,” she added.  And the event was a success, raising almost $5,000.  They knew with that kind of success that they would do it again….and again.

Fast forward to 2014 and the Friends of Hospice are now 100+ members strong as they present two major fundraising events each year – Oktoberfest in the fall and Fairways for Kids Golf Classic in spring.  Last year, the all-volunteer group raised $123,000 to support Hospice of Santa Cruz County’s programs including transitional care services for seriously ill community members and grief support for adults, children and teens.

Even back in 1983, when the concept of hospice care was still very new, Betty understood the impact that Hospice of Santa Cruz County would make.   “When my husband died of cancer, there was no hospice care,” Betty explains.  Over the years, she has seen how hospice care supports both the patient and their family members.  “It takes a special kind of person to work for hospice,” she adds.  “I’m just so glad that we have such a strong organization to support our community, and it’s so wonderful to remember how it all started.”

As Betty reminisces about the early years of Oktoberfest events, she is reminded of an old Mickey Rooney joke:  “I found a barn, now let’s put on a show”.  Her story brings to mind the timeless words of Margaret Mead:  “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”