Sunday, September 24, 1995

Bedridden racers raise funds

Originally published 9/24/1995 in the Fort Myers News-Press
By MIRIAM PEREIRA News-Press staff writer

It was a cross between the Sealy's Posturepedic bed commercial and the Indy 500. Only the beds weren't as comfortable and the pace wasn't as fast.

But the racers had all the drive of Mario Andretti.

Well, sort of.

Decked out in PJs, cow-bed slippers, boxer shorts and, yes, even ballet tutus, about 40 racers pushed and pulled gurneys, beds and other wheeled objects to the finish line Saturday morning of the first ``Take to Your Bed for Hope Hospice.''

``We're insane. Someone told us it would be easy,'' said Robin Rianhard-Berg, breathless after pushing the winning gurney across the finish line at Lee Street and Edwards Drive.

The gurney - christened ``Angels on Wheels'' and sponsored by Intergrated Health Services of Fort Myers - was decked with purple and white balloons and silver tinsel. Its rider and three runners zipped up and down Edwards Drive, wearing purple T-shirts and white tutus strapped to their shorts.

``We did it because it was a good cause,'' Rianhard-Berg said.

The costume bed race in downtown Fort Myers raised about $4,000 for Hope Hospice, which offers 24hour comprehensive care for terminally ill patients, said Linda Nelson, the hospice's director of community services.

The 13-year-old hospice serves more than 400 patients from Hendry, Lee and Glades counties who suffer from such illnesses as AIDS, cancer and heart disease, Nelson said.

``They're so supportive of the entire family, not just the patient,'' said Bobbi Rous, whose relatives have volunteered in hospices in other states.

Rous and her husband, Greg, owners of Styl-Art vertical blinds, decorated a twin-sized bed with vertical blinds in two days. Their children, Michael, 4, and Alexandra, 2, rode on the bed as the king and queen of blinds.

``This is a product of our imagination since Thursday,'' Greg Rous said.

Their bed came in second.

Although not the swiftest - it lost in the first heat - but definitely the most creative was the hospice's ``Dream Team'' bed.

Adhering to its sweet dreams theme, the bed had a canopy of white Christmas lights and gold stars. Its head and foot boards were embellished with pieces of cotton that made fluffy clouds.

``We may not win the race but we have the prettiest bed,'' said Wendy Walters, the hospice's patient care coordinator.