Renfrew — There is nothing like a warm and sunny spring day to bring people out for a good cause and on Sunday more than 300 walkers participated in the annual Hike for Hospice with this year’s event raising more than $90,000 in what has become the 15-year-old facility’s signature event.
The day was also a chance for many family members and friends to return to Hospice to remember and celebrate their loved ones who spent their final days in the building that resembles a quaint country home rather than a typical medical establishment.
Although the total raised at the end of the hike Sunday was $85,669, donations continued coming in Monday when the amount raised went above $90,000, down a bit from past years, but organizers were more than pleased with the amount considering last month’s Auto Lotto for Hospice Renfrew raised just over $150,000.
For many people, it was also their first time back to hospice after mourning their loved ones. When they returned on Sunday, many were smiling as they shared their common experience. The hospice parking lot was filled with the sounds of laughter and the innocence of children dancing to the music emanating from the main stage.
Prior to the opening of the hike, more than 30 volunteers performed various tasks such as registration, face-painting, handing out refreshments and water, and several other tasks that go into making the day the longtime success it has been.
Among those 30 volunteers was Jamie Cybulski. Along with being the radio host of myFM’s popular morning show, he has been a member of the hospice’s Board of Directors for several years. One duty he has performed for more than 10 years is taking on the role of emcee for the day.
Along with ensuring the hike remained on schedule, he explained to everyone in attendance why he devotes many hours to Hospice Renfrew.
“For many of you out here today, this is your first time back since your loved one passed away,” he said. “It is great to see you and for some, it was hard to come back here since the loss of someone you loved. I had the same feeling when my father spent his last days here in 2011. But I think all of us realize we are not mourning that loss, but we are gathered here to celebrate their lives and the amazing people and staff that make Hospice Renfrew such a valuable community resource.”
One of the families that certainly heard Mr. Cybulski’s words were members of the McCausland family. Each year a family is chosen to lead the walk-in honour of a loved one and this year that honour fell to the members of “Team Janice” McCausland.
She passed away at the age of 67 on February 8, 2022. As Mr. Cybulski pointed out in his remarks, the hike offers a chance for families to come back and celebrate, but to do so when they are ready.
In the case of the McCausland family, it had been 15 months since they returned to hospice, and her husband, Graham said the pain was too much to take part in the 2022 hike.
“It was just too raw for us after Jan passed away last year,” he said. “Last year the hike was less than three months after we said goodbye to her. But this year we all agreed it was time to come celebrate Janice’s life and memory and if you take a look around, you see a lot of family members and they are laughing and remembering the good times. I am glad we came out.”
Mr. Graham, like so many others, said there are no words to accurately describe the quality of care found at Hospice Renfrew.
“When Jan was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer we had all hoped to keep her home until the end,” he said. “Unfortunately, by the end she required more care than we could offer her at home. We are so thankful to the team at Renfrew Hospice for making the impossible seem a little more bearable.”
Renfrew Mayor Tom Sidney was invited to bring greetings from the town to the residents and out-of-town guests.
“It is such an honour to be here today and see all of you out there taking time to not only help raise money for hospice, but you are here to celebrate a special someone who at one time used the services of our hospice,” he said. “I can tell you, as the mayor of Renfrew, I can only feel pride about Renfrew Hospice and what it means not just to Renfrew, but to the Ottawa Valley as well.”
Leader Publisher Gerald Tracey, who has been chair of the hospice’s Board since 2017, also took time to thank the McCausland family and other participants, and everyone who has supported Hospice Renfrew financially.
Peter Boldt of Renfrew, the popular Zumba class instructor, then took to the stage to get the crowd warmed up with a few minutes of simple stretching exercises to the sound of fast music. After the crowd warmup, hikers made their way to the Albert Street entrance to start the hike.
The event started with five young enthusiastic joggers who straddled the starting line and waited for the signal to begin their five-kilometre run. They set out from the hospice parking lot and ran a circuit which made its way down Stewart Street onto Raglan Street, then looped around to end up back at the hospice.
When the 300 plus walkers left Hospice, they were escorted by six members of the Renfrew Highland Pipe and Drum Band. Some residents of nearby Bonnechere Manor and Chartwell Retirement Home took advantage of the warm day to come out and cheer on the group.
Return To Hospice
Everyone was quite pleased with the amount raised in the hike, considering the recent Auto Lotto in April held in conjunction with the 15th anniversary of Hospice Renfrew, raised just over $150,000.
“Actually, most of us were blown over with the amount raised this year,” Mr. Tracey said. “I think most of us were expecting this year’s hike would raise somewhere around $50,000.”
Hospice Renfrew Executive-Director Marjorie Joly agreed the total was lower because of other recent fundraising efforts.
“The hike is our signature event and it is usually our first major function of the year in terms of fundraising,” she said. “But this year we had a wildly successful lottery for a new vehicle, and we had another committee that organized a gala celebrating our 15th anniversary. You combine that with Tim Hortons donating profits from the annual Smile Campaign and I would say we have had a very successful spring campaign in terms of fundraising. This is the first year we had so many major fundraising efforts just prior to the hike.”
Tim Hortons owners Richard and Shelley Dean chose Hospice Renfrew as this year’s recipient for proceeds from the annual Cookie Campaign, which ran from May 1 to 7. As of Sunday afternoon, with several hours left before the campaign ended, Mr. Dean announced more than $25,000 had already been raised.
There were a host of individuals who left the site with a gift under their arms as Mr. Cybulski announced the names of various winners who had their names drawn for the donated prizes.
Five people chose to take part in the 5 km run and the fastest runner was Thomas McGregor with a time of 24 minutes and 39 seconds.
Teams that raised the most money were:
First Place — the Eganville Leader at $12,550;
Second Place — Team Dunbar at $7,136.15,
Third Place — Nanny’s Ninjas at $4,145.
Each year, Al Utronki’s TV and Appliances donates a big screen TV which is awarded to one of the participants. This year’s winner was Bria Riopelle.
Click below for more photos and a video of the event.