Jeff Heuchert email@example.com
Supporters for a residential hospice in Stratford came out in full force to the community's first-ever Hike for Hospice.
More than $23,000 had already been raised online before more than 100 participants set out for strolls around the Avon River throughout the morning on Sunday, May 3.
All of the proceeds raised will support the creation of a home-like facility in the Stratford-Perth area that provides physical, emotional and social assistance to patients who are unable to, or do not wish to, remain at home with an end-stage illness. Should the project not move forward the funds will be transferred to an eligible charitable organization that provides local hospice palliative care.
"We're really encouraged by the support of the community shown here today. The momentum is definitely growing," said Barb Hagarty, a member of the Stratford Perth Residential Hospice steering committee whose vision is for a centre where adults and children with progressive life-limiting illness, as well as their family and caregivers, can access team-based, holistic, and timely hospice palliative care.
Richard Lavery was one of the participants. He has volunteered with hospice support services through Family Services Perth-Huron for the last four years, attending to patients at their homes or sometimes in the hospital.
He said many people would prefer to die in their own homes but, due to a lack of caregiver support, that's not always the best scenario; and even in situations where there is a loved one to care for the patient, the level of commitment that's required is often far greater than expected.
"Those last days can be really difficult on families," Lavery said. "It's overwhelming (to the caregiver), even if you have the family pitching in."
A "more professional environment" like what is being proposed locally would be a step in the right direction towards addressing the service gap that exists in the community, he added, noting more personal support workers are also needed to attend to people's needs during their final days, whether they choose to stay at home or enter a residential hospice.
The steering committee estimates capital costs of $6 million for the residential hospice along with an annual operating budget of $1.5 million. But the province funds only up to 60 per cent of the annual operating costs.
Committee member Cathy Wyse said the community's support for the project will be critical to its immediate and long-term success.
With that in mind, she said she was very pleased with Sunday's result.
"This tells me that we need (a hospice), and that there is an outpouring of support for it," she said.
The City of Stratford has committed $1.5 million to the project and the steering committee is also accepting donations through the Rotary Club of Stratford's charitable foundation earmarked for palliative care.
A formal funding request will be submitting to the South West Local Health Integration Network and the steering committee expects to learn whether provincial funding will be made available later this year.
You can learn more about the residential hospice and its progress on its Facebook page. Search Stratford/Perth Hospice Project.