Renfrew — One of the area’s biggest fundraisers is just around the corner, and this year the participants will be going around the corner in downtown Renfrew to raise money and aware- ness of the programs and services offered at Hospice Renfrew.
The 11th annual Hike for Hospice Renfrew, taking place on Sunday, May 7, is hoping to exceed last year’s record amount of more than $100,000 raised by 600 participants by showcasing its premier event in downtown Renfrew.
Hospice board chair Connie Legg said this year’s hike is vital as the county’s first hospice continues to be an integral service for residents in all parts of Renfrew County.
“Even though the name says Hospice Renfrew, the facility welcomes clients from all over the Ottawa Valley,” Mrs. Legg said. “When someone comes to Hospice Renfrew for their final days, they are usually joined by family members as we do our best to make their stay as comfortable as possible. It is those families that carry on their memories during our annual hike.”
Mrs. Legg said the hike has grown so big that last year it had to be moved from Stewart Park to the Ma-Te-Way Activity Centre to accommodate the hundreds of participants. They come not only to raise money, but to celebrate the memories of their loved ones who spent their final days at the facility.
“We have so many teams that are made up of family members, and they travel from all over the county and many come from as far away as Ottawa and Toronto,” she said. “Some of them have taken it one step further and are holding their own barbeques and garage sales over the hospice weekend and they are donating all the money back to us.”
She explained unlike many national non-profit agencies, all the money raised for Hospice Renfrew goes right back into the facility to cover the operational costs. Hospice Renfrew does not charge its clients and the facility relies on this fundraiser, along with its annual golf tournament and other events to keep the lights on and the patients comfortable in their final days.
When the hundreds of participants begin either the 5 km run or 3 km walk, they will certainly be a visual presence in town. Unlike other years, the route for the walkers will have them trek down Renfrew Avenue West from the Millennium Trail and proceed onto Raglan Street South where traffic is usually very busy in the downtown core.
Representatives from Hospice Renfrew appeared before Renfrew Town council recently to seek permission to alter the route and council was very supportive of the proposed route. Mrs. Legg said town officials were excited about the changes and were looking forward to offering support as needed.
“We want to be as visible as possible walking through downtown Renfrew,” she said. “We will be led out of Ma-Te-Way by the Renfrew Highland Pipes and Drums, and this year the Mason family will lead the way in honour of Jim Mason. There will be many large families wearing matching shirts or costumes and they will be celebrating the memories of a loved one who passed through the doors at Hospice.”
Although families make up a large number of teams, she said more and more businesses, groups, and others are entering teams to help raise money. She said not only are businesses entering teams, but more are sponsoring the hike.
A Need To Raise $600,000 Annually
Even though everyone has a great time, Mrs. Legg said the harsh financial reality of operating the facility is something in the back of her mind.
“We are fortunate to have a residential setting in Renfrew,” she said. “It was the first and remains still one of the only rural residential hospices in the province. But the majority of our budget comes from our fundraising efforts as the province funds only 50 per cent of our costs. That means every year we need to raise $600,000 to support operational costs like hydro, food, gas and part of the salaries.”
Even with all the fundraising efforts, the stark reality is they fall short every year. That requires the board and senior staff to draw on its sustainability fund in order balance the books. She said at that rate, the fund will be depleted within two years.
“We owe so much to our sponsors and all our volunteers who give so much to keep Hospice Renfrew a place where we do not charge our patients any money,” she said. “We want to make their final days as comfortable as possible and our facility is very much like a home rather than an institution. That is why the Hike for Hospice is so vital.”
Registration begins at 11:30 and the hike starts at 2 p.m. It will have some new additions. Garrison Petawawa is not only sending down a full team, but they will also be sending a MASH Teddy Bear tent so children can bring their injured stuffed animals and the medics will patch them up.
Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MPP John Yakabuski will not only be making a statement in the Ontario Legislature and inviting everyone to attend, but he will be putting his recently repaired hip to work and join the three kilometre walk that day.
Mrs. Legg is hoping the Tim Hor- ton’s mobile coffee van is on site inside the ice pad. As usual, there will be face-painting for kids of all ages and the 30 volunteers will be hand- ing out bottled water and a variety of healthy snacks for all participants.
Mrs. Legg said her 13 years serving on the board have created some of the most memorable events in her life and she is always amazed at the selfless generosity of the volunteers and participants who come together to help raise money.
“This is a great way to introduce our facility to all parts of the Ottawa Valley,” she said. “Next year marks our 10th anniversary of when we first opened our doors and that will certainly be an eventful year. But for now, we are concentrating on this year’s Hike for Hospice and it is my hope we get even more people out and surpass last year’s record amount.”
Anyone wishing to enter a team can register online and there is also a section on their website to make a donation ahead of the actual hike.
For more information, go to www.hospicerenfrew.ca or call 613-433- 3993.
The Leader, Eganville, Ontario
By R. Bruce McIntyre Staff Writer