Crowds turn out to support Hike for Hospice event


By Pauline Kerr

The goal of providing compassionate, holistic end-of-life care close to home for Kincardine and area residents is thousands of steps closer to realization after the weekend's Hike for Hospice event.

Cheryl Cottrill, chair of the organizing committee, announced the hike surpassed the fundraising goal.

"The final tally from the walk is $12,127.45. We are thrilled with the community support for the hospice project.”

An estimated crowd of about 100 people (and quite a few of their canine friends) took to the Kincardine trail system and the outdoor track at the Davidson Centre on Sunday to raise funds for hospice and palliative care. All funds raised at the event will remain in the community.

In addition to the hike, the local Lions cooked up hotdogs and sausages, and the fire department brought a truck for youngsters to touch and explore. Youngsters could get their faces painted, and there was a free swim later in the afternoon.

The aim of the event - the first for the community - was to raise funds for and awareness of the local hospice project.

Joan Eaglesham, vice-chair of the committee, explained the group's initial goal is to raise a total of $310,000 to cover the cost of operating one residential palliative care bed for two years. The group is more than half-way to achieving that goal, and Cottrill said the hope is to have the bed open by the end of this year.

Eaglesham said the bed will be located at Tiverton Park Manor. Of course, the hope is to eventually have a free-standing hospice to serve the needs of families in Kincardine, Huron-Kinloss and parts of Saugeen Shores.

It's been a long time coming. Cottrill said the group has been working on the project for almost five years. The excitement of seeing it enter the home stretch is almost palpable.

Eaglesham explained the area definitely has a need for this type of end-of-life care. She said a hospice provides compassionate, holistic care in a home-like residential setting.

"If they want the family dog to spend the afternoon, or have a rye and coke at three in the morning, they can," she said.

Right now, families have only two options close to home - care for their loved one at home, or have them in the hospital. The first meets the social needs of the terminally ill person but not necessarily the medical - the hospital does the opposite. What's needed is a situation where all needs are met by a group of health care professionals, volunteers, friends and family.

It might be community-based care for those able to remain in their homes, or possibly in hospital. It might also be a residential setting for people unable to remain at home for their final days. Both are needed in this community, and the need will only grow as our population ages.

Unfortunately, the closest available hospice-type residential facility is hours away, making visiting difficult especially in the winter.

Municipality of Kincardine Mayor Anne Eadie told the crowd gathered for the hike the need for hospice care in the community is great.

"We try our best as a family, but in the last few weeks, many of us find we don't have the expertise, or the stamina, to provide 24-hour care."

She commended the organizing committee for their hard work in taking the project from the beginning, to its present state.

"Now they need the rest of us to get the fundraising completed," she said.

Eaglesham said the project has had a helping hand from a lot of people, including Dr. Damien Gunaratne, one of the community's newer doctors. He has experience and expertise in palliative care and is able to advise other doctors on pain management.

Bruce Powerhas contributed a large sum of money to the project, as well as ongoing support to the organizing committee. Mike Rencheck, Bruce Power President and CEO, spoke prior to the start of the hike, commenting on the need in the community for hospice care - and on the remarkable level of community support.

"We will do this and we can do this," he said.

The Kincardine Trails Association played a key role in the Hike for Hospice event. Brad Kirkconnell led the group on a 3K walk along nearby trails. Hikers had the option of using the outdoor track or, for those who preferred to walk indoors, the indoor Davidson Centre track.

As the initial goal of opening one residential bed for hospice care nears realization, volunteers are being trained to assist in caring for patients and families. More would be welcome. Eaglesham said the committee is also at the point where additional volunteers will be needed on the board of directors.

"Hospice care would not happen without the volunteers," said Ealesham.

Donations to the project may be made online at or sent to 30 Webster St., Box 262, Tiverton ON, N0G 2T0. Official receipts will be issued for donations of $20 or more.