A Dozen Members of the Prolyfyck Run Crew pose together after completing the Memorial Mile of the HOP5K

Members of the Prolyfyck Run Crew pose after completing the 2023 HOP5K. Katina Ragland-Dowell is seen in the center wearing a white t-shirt.

Finding Strength in Community: A Mother’s Journey

As we gear up for the 23rd Annual HOP5K (our 5K run/walk event that raises funds to support the organization’s important work in our community), we’re talking with participants who make the event so extraordinarily impactful. One such participant is Katina Ragland-Dowell.

Connecting to HOP

Katina first got involved with Hospice of the Piedmont (HOP) shortly after her 23-year-old son Jovon passed away in a tragic car accident in 2015. It was then that she began participating in HOP’s “Remembering Our Children” grief support group. This free, ongoing program provides a safe, nurturing space for parents who have experienced the loss of a child.

“I thought that hospice was just for someone who’s passing away. But then I realized hospice offers support to people who are survivors,” says Katina. Indeed, thanks to generous community philanthropy, HOP offers a wide range of support groups for adults and children navigating the journey of grief.

“Whenever I hear of someone who has lost a child, or a mother, or a sibling, I try to put hospice’s name out there,” she says. “Hospice is not just for someone who’s passing, but it’s there to help you, too.”

Prolyfyck: Empowerment Through Every Step

Katina’s participation in the HOP5K is also connected to another community that has become an essential part of her life – the Prolyfyck Run Crew. Prolyfyck is a local running group that empowers its members, particularly from historically marginalized communities, to achieve and inspire. “To be Prolyfyck is a way of life,” the group’s mission statement reads, advocating for proactive engagement and community empowerment.

“I’m not a runner; I’m more of a power walker and jogger,” Katina says. “But when I’m out there with Prolyfyck, it just puts me in a different mindset. There’s no judgment, no pressure – it’s just about being in community and lifting each other up.”

Jogging the HOP 5K

“I heard about the HOP5K last year and decided to sign up,” Katina shares. “I lost my son in May, around Mother’s Day, so I’m beginning to make it a tradition.”

While Katina doesn’t necessarily do any special training for the 5K, she finds immense power in the day. “I love to walk,” she says. “So, I start power walking, and the next thing I know, my feet say, ‘Hey, let’s just jog” and I just start jogging.”

The scenery and the community are also motivating, “Keswick is beautiful,” she says. “The people are friendly; they come out, and they’re welcoming.”

The Memorial Mile

During the final mile of the HOP5K course, participants run or walk past signs displaying the names of loved ones who have passed away – an emotional and motivating part of the event known as the Memorial Mile.

Last year, Katina and some friends from Prolyfyck purchased a sign with her son’s name on it. “As you get towards the end and see your loved one’s name, it just makes you push even harder,” Katina explains. “You know you’re out there for a purpose, and you’re not alone.”

Be Part of the HOP5K

For Katina, the HOP5K is about so much more than just crossing the finish line. It’s an opportunity to honor her son Jovon’s memory, connect with her Hospice of the Piedmont family, and find strength in the embrace of her Prolyfyck community.

As the 23rd Annual HOP5K approaches, Katina has a simple message for anyone considering participating, “All I can say is if you haven’t signed up, please sign up.”

You can join Katina and the rest of the Hospice of the Piedmont community at the HOP5K on May 11th. Sign up today and help us continue providing exceptional hospice and palliative care to everyone in our community, as well as free support services to those navigating grief and loss.