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Part nine Donors and fundraising events a vital part of SCHS success

 Part nine


Donors and fundraising events

a vital part of SCHS success


by Heather Conn

              From little children giving coins during Lights of Life campaigns to local businesses donating tens of thousands of dollars, Sunshine Coast Hospice Society (SCHS) has relied for decades on the generosity of its local community.


            Today, SCHS is grateful for the annual giving of donors such as John and Sheila Carlson of Gibsons, who both acknowledge the vital role that hospice plays in easing end-of-life care. They witnessed this first-hand: when Sheila’s sister died of cancer in Roberts Creek in 2009, she received hospice care at home. Her husband was trained to give her morphine shots.

            This death was “more pleasant,” than that of her own daughter Valerie, Sheila says, who died of cancer in Chilliwack Hospital in March 2008. “That was terribly difficult,” she says. “The nurse told me more could have been done for our daughter if she had been in hospice. Someone at Chilliwack Hospital suggested hospice, but it was too late. There were no beds.”

            For many people like the Carlsons, the inspiration to donate comes from gratitude for the increased comfort that hospice services can provide a family member at the end of life. Sometimes, watching a family member die without the benefit of hospice care can motivate someone to give in the hopes that it can improve the quality of life of another dying patient.

            Few people realize that the Society, which registered as a non-profit charity on Sept. 30, 1999, is independently funded. Unlike many hospices, which receive substantial ongoing funding from a government health authority, SCHS relies completely on an assortment of short-term grants and donations from local businesses, organizations, and individuals. (See the sidebar to find out how you can give a one-time or monthly donation to SCHS.)

No fundraising in early days

            There was no time to think about funding or donations in 1987, when the first 10 Sunshine Coast hospice volunteers, including Rosemary Hoare, Mary Macdonald, Margaret Gemmell, and Peggy Cotgrave, received their hospice training. They were too busy, inspired by local hospice initiators Martha and Bob Scales, Maybeth Hoagland, Dr. Al Swan, and Heather Blackwood (then Myhill-Jones), trying to find referral patients, doing all-night vigils, learning more about hospice, and spreading the word about what it was and did.

            “A lot of people aren’t aware of hospice until they need it,” says Sheila Carlson.

            When it started, Sunshine Coast Hospice had no money whatsoever— all efforts were volunteer. But slowly, money from grateful families began to trickle in.

            “All the donations, early on, were from individuals appreciative of or in memory [of someone],” remembers Blackwood. “We had memory donations in the back of the paper when somebody died. That would sometimes be in the obituaries: donations to Sunshine Coast Hospice. We did not see fundraising as a priority. We had too much to learn. We had too much to support for our individual volunteers. We weren’t in that [fundraising] track.”

Recycled bottles fund first hospice brochure

            As an unincorporated entity with no status as a society, the early volunteers had no legal means through which to receive donations. What would they do?


            “We needed a group or a recognized organization so that we could accept money,” said SCHS benefactor and long-time volunteer Rosemary Hoare, when interviewed in 2014 at age 93. “We did need money. Hospice looked like a very few people. It was very small. We had no funding. We had to make a decision as to who to join.”

            At first, they used the bank account of the Women’s Auxiliary at St. Mary’s (now Sechelt) Hospital, and later operated under the umbrella of Home Support Services, where hospice volunteer Martha Scales was executive director. Some early hospice meetings were held in the Home Support office on the second floor of the hospital, where Home Support gave Sunshine Coast Hospice administrative and phone support.

              “Being an umbrella group of Home Support, we didn’t have to worry about paying insurance,” says Blackwood. “Being part of an established group really made a big difference.”

            She recalls, with a chuckle, how Sunshine Coast Hospice paid for its first brochure. At the time, she was the secretary/treasurer of the hospice steering committee. Besides hospice-related courses and books, volunteers then paid for any incidentals out of their own pocket.

            “I was training for my first recreational triathlon,” Blackwood says. “I’d go out to Trout Lake, especially on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and swim in the lake early. My son Danny, who was about nine, would come with me. He would pick up all the empty beer bottles around the lake. He raised 42 dollars before we had the brochure printed. He paid for the first hospice brochure out of all the empties the teenagers left at Trout Lake.


First donation box appears in 1992


            For at least its first five years, Sunshine Coast Hospice did no fundraising. By 1992, it had trained 52 volunteers, who each paid $50 for the training, held over three weekends. (Today, hospice volunteer training is free.)

            The first Lights of Life event, held in December 1992, marked the first time a donation box, created by Martin Flynn, was used by Sunshine Coast Hospice. The Casey family donated the first Lights of Life tree and lit the first light.

            “That was our first accumulation of some money to buy resources and things like that,” says Blackwood. “We said in the paper, ‘Donations are not required at all.’ That’s what we’ve always said. Money was coming in that we could use for training programs and things. At this point, we still didn’t have a paid coordinator.” Today, a donation is still not required to write a Lights of Life card and hang it on the trees provided to honour the memory of a loved one.


            At first, Lights of Life became Sunshine Coast Hospice’s biggest fundraiser, says former volunteer and treasurer Jean Rice. The Bank of Montreal began to donate, increasing its contribution amount each year. The Sunshine Coast Credit Union gave funds, along with countless individuals, organizations, and businesses too numerous to mention in this article.

            “As treasurer, I would see all of the donations that came in from families and read the cards and the words they had written,” says Rice. “Some of those donations were quite significant. I remember ones as much as $5,000. Sometimes it was $1,000.”

            The SCHS has held numerous fundraising drives since, starting with a Sechelt golf course tournament in 1994. Since then, the Society has showcased artists as a draw for donors; some examples include a 2005 concert in Gibsons of young musicians called “The Now Generation,” three 2011 benefit concerts “Black & White with a Touch of Colour,” featuring pianist Kenneth Norman Johnson and the Northern Light Orchestra, and the Sept. 16, 2017 event “In Their Own Voice” with noted spoken word poet Shane Koyczan plus local author Kara Stanley and her musician husband Simon Paradis.

No expertise or energy to fundraise 100 per cent of the time

            Volunteer fundraising efforts for Sunshine Coast Hospice sometimes came from non-hospice members of the local community: volunteers’ spouses and friends, organizations, businesses, or those trying to set up a free-standing hospice in the late 1990s. A hospice steering committee was formed after St. Mary’s Hospital closed its palliative care beds around 1998. Members included Cam and Loreen Reid of the Sechelt Rotary Club, Maureen and John Clayton, Dr. Bruce Ford, Tony Pike, and Dean Butler.

            The initial plan was that Rotary would build the free-standing hospice, the Claytons would donate the land in Sechelt, and the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority would pay for operating costs. The steering committee members spent about a year touring the province at their own expense, finding time to visit other hospices and fundraise outside their regular jobs.

            “We wanted to fundraise so people could get tax receipts,” says Maureen Clayton, chair of the Sunshine Coast hospice steering committee. “We wanted to be recognized as a place that had a purpose, had a constitution, had bylaws. That was part of it. People do donate and expect a tax receipt for it.”

            That drive for official recognition and status helped provide the impetus for Sunshine Coast Hospice to become an official Society in September 1999 under the B.C. Societies Act.

            The steering committee discovered that a female representative of the Prince George Hospice spent 100 per cent of her time fundraising, said Clayton. She added that a group on Vancouver Island had renovated a beautiful old home to required health standards, then donated it to the local health authority to use as a hospice.

            “They [the health authority] said, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’” said Clayton. ‘“We’re not going to operate it.’ It certainly made us realize that we did not have the expertise or the energy to be constantly fundraising 100 per cent of the time for operations.”

            In the late 1990s, a free-standing hospice with four to six beds on the Sunshine Coast would have cost $450,000 a year or $245 per bed per day. The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority was unwilling to cover the cost of round-the-clock medical care at a Sunshine Coast hospice facility, so no free-standing facility was built.

Local community came together and never gave up

            However, since local individuals and businesses had generously provided funds towards a free-standing hospice, the steering committee ended up with substantial monies. This included $45,000 from Construction Aggregates Ltd. (now Lehigh) in Sechelt and about $50,000 from Berndt Rindt, owner of Target Marine Hatcheries.

              These donations went, instead, towards the opening of two hospice beds at the Garden Inn in Gibsons on Oct. 3, 2001, Clayton says. The Society fundraised to furnish the rooms, buy lifts, and pay the monthly room rental rate. It partnered with Coast Garibaldi Health and the Community Health Council, while Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) provided the health care.

            “It is tremendously rewarding to be part of a project which has so much community support,” said Clayton. “We have had our ups and downs over the years. At times, it has been quite despairing, but always at our lowest point someone would call and say, ‘You can do this’ and we were encouraged again. And now it’s here [Garden Inn hospice rooms], thanks to the people of this community coming together and never giving up.”

            Although VCH ordered these same hospice beds closed in late March 2005, the will of SCHS members and the community was strong to keep such a vital service available. Within six months, on Sept. 16, the Hospice Society officially opened two new hospice beds and a sitting lounge/counselling room for friends and family at Shorncliffe nursing home in Sechelt

 The Hospice Society covered the room renovations, which cost about $75,000 to $80,000. It agreed to rent the rooms from VCH and ask hospice clients using a room to pay a portion of the rent, if they could afford it. The typical length of stay was two to three weeks.

“If only we could have a free-standing hospice”

            By then, SCHS had established a volunteer board, which included local business people and those who had worked with non-profits who had expertise in attracting donors and writing successful grant applications.

            Over the years, the Society has had many capable volunteer treasurers, including Heather Blackwood, John Clayton, Phyllis Keller, Jean Rice, Julie Astalnok, and more.

            Some board members looked longingly at other communities such as Langley and Chilliwack, which each had a 10-bed facility, said Rice, then a SCHS board member, who began as a hospice volunteer in 2001. These Lower Mainland hospice facilities receive ongoing monies from the Fraser Health Authority. Some representatives of the Fraser Health Authority even sit on the board of the Chilliwack hospice.

            By comparison, Sunshine Coast Hospice sometimes felt as if it was barely scraping along, she said, but added that this never discouraged her.

            “We always talked about: if only we could have a free-standing hospice like parts of the Lower Mainland had,” said Rice. “[But] we had to recognize we [the Sunshine Coast] were a smaller community. We had a totally different set-up here.”

            For example, Chilliwack could raise about $40,000 from its Hike for Hospice while the same event on the Sunshine Coast raised about $4,000 in 2003, says Rice.

            Although she can’t recall the date, Rice readily describes her reaction when SCHS received its first-ever provincial government grant. “I remember being so excited. Was it $24,000 or $50,000 or something? We had hired someone to write the grant. We were so over the moon. That was a lot of money to the organization then.”

“A very, very giving community”

            Whenever local individuals or organizations could not donate funds, they were generous with their time and knowledge, offering things like free business consulting, professional skills, grant-writing abilities and most important of all — love.

            In August 2010, about 20 Canada World Youth volunteers worked alongside local master gardeners Odessa Bromley and Betty McPhee, a hospice volunteer, to transform a garden area outside SCHS’s two hospice rooms. Maggie Marsh, owner of Casey’s, then a garden centre in Sechelt, donated plants.

            Rice remembers: “The garden didn’t look like it does today. It was just weedy grass out there. In one day, with these 20 teenagers and a group of us from hospice, the grass was literally dug up. Thank goodness it was a dry, sunny day and not a wet, rainy day. Otherwise, it would have been like a mud bath. We got donations of plants, had them all there waiting. There were some tall strapping boys, which was just fantastic. Some of the girls, it was kind of funny the [impractical] shoes that they showed up in.” 

              Clayton praises the Lower Sunshine Coast for its generosity in providing donations. “It was a community that I have found, in all that I have participated in, [to be] very, very giving. People do step up if they can and if they can’t, then they volunteer their time. I just think it’s an amazing place to live.”

2011 to today: fundraising in full force

            With more funding provided in later years, the SCHS ended up introducing a paid volunteer coordinator around 2011, a position that continues today.  

            In the summer of 2011, then-SCHS president Ali Kahn reported that the eight-member sustainable funding committee was meeting regularly to learn more about various forms of fundraising and to create a plan. It received a Sunshine Coast Community Foundation grant to help fund a wheelchair-accessible path through the hospice garden at Shorncliffe. Steve Marsh donated his time to create the concrete pathway.


            Three years later, the SCHS held its first Heart to Heart Gala as a fundraiser. In 2015,  

the Heart to Heart Gala brought in an estimated $25,000, with Ed Hill auctioning off donated works by local artists Motoko, Marleen Vermeulen, Greta Guzek, Bradley Hunt, and Marlene Lowden.

            That same year, SCHS teamed up with Tim Hortons for the Smile Cookie Campaign, which raised $12,000 for Hospice. Every dollar from cookies sales went straight to the Society.

            Also in 2015, SCHS refurbished the hospice rooms at Shorncliffe, thanks to a grant of $3,500 received in 2014 from the Sunshine Coast Community Foundation. A team of volunteers led by Bev Nielsen, a hospice board member and interior designer, refreshed and updated the rooms. Paul’s Paintin’ Place donated paint, Kern’s provided room furnishings at a deep discount, and Sound Attraction donated a flat-screen television.

            In January 2017, the B.C. Centre for Palliative Care gave SCHS $200,000 for the medical furnishing of new hospice rooms, once they are built. The Society will hold this money in trust for this purpose until a new facility is constructed.

            Today, the Society continues its commitment to increasing the number of dedicated hospice beds on the Sunshine Coast. Discussions with Vancouver Coastal Health are ongoing regarding this issue.

            As part of its 30th anniversary celebration, the SCHS is doing its best to contact and acknowledge as many of its donors, past and present, as possible. The Society board members, staff, and volunteers are deeply grateful and appreciative of all who have given to local hospice efforts over the past three decades.

Note: Any opinions expressed in this content are those of a specific individual. They do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the Sunshine Coast Hospice Society (SCHS) or any SCHS volunteers, past, present or future.

Sidebar 1

Where do the funds go?

            SCHS donors and contributors help to fund the following:

  • upkeep and furnishings in two hospice rooms at Shorncliffe
  • upgrades and improvements to the wheelchair-accessible gardens and patio for hospice companions and their loved ones at Shorncliffe
  • volunteer training program
  • occasional guest speakers for volunteers’ monthly educational in-service sessions
  • additional training sessions for volunteers
  • books for the Hospice House library
  • grief support groups in Sechelt and Pender Harbour
  • salaries for Manager of Hospice Services and Associate Manager of Hospice Services
  • maintenance and operation of office and training space at Hospice House.



Choose how you’d like to donate


            It’s easy to support Sunshine Coast Hospice Society in multiple ways on our website:


  1. Set up a monthly donation online (www.coasthospice.com/how-you-can-help/online-donations)
  2. Make a one-time donation online (www.coasthospice.com/how-you-can-help/online-donations)
  3. Make a one-time donation by cash or cheque
  4. Buy an annual membership for $20 and become a Friend of Hospice. You’ll receive invitations to talks, workshops and social events (coasthospice.com/how-you-can-help/membership/).


            The SCHS provides tax receipts for donations of $20 or more.