Dramatic escape reflected in Princeton Auxiliary support for PRH

After being burned out of her home two summers ago, Laila Bird truly knows how much the Princeton Hospital Auxiliary helps their community.

Laila, the Auxiliary’s past-president, was looking after her son’s rural home on Highway 5A north of town, when a massive wildfire roared through the area in July 2017.  Two homes, including theirs, and one business were destroyed.

“We lost every blooming thing, except the tractor,” she recalled.

Minutes after running out of the house, Laila and some neighbours watched as the blaze raced by.

“It was actually coming down the mountain – flames and everything – when I was alerted,” she said.

“I just had time to put out the sprinklers, put the dog in the car, grab my passport and purse and get out.”

Laila was the first person to arrive at the town’s emergency evacuation centre and received tremendous community support, especially from the Hospital Auxiliary which supplied many evacuees with free clothing from their downtown Thrift Shop. 

“Thank God for the Hospital Auxiliary, because all I had was what I stood in,” she recalled.

The Princeton Hospital Auxiliary, established in 1910, is a strong community supporter with about 50 members who volunteer at the Thrift Shop on Vermillion Avenue.

“The town population is less than 3,000, so with 50 members, that’s pretty good,” she said.

In addition to fundraising for Princeton General Hospital and other local organizations, the Auxiliary is also donating $30,000 to help provide medical equipment for the expansion of Penticton Regional Hospital.

Laila emphasized the PRH donation does not come at the expense of Princeton’s own hospital. The Auxiliary has an extensive list of recent donations to Princeton General, including $20,000 for a telemetry system and $2,600 for a defibrillator.  It also recently provided a blanket warmer at the Ridgewood Lodge extended care residence and a bariatric shower chair.

As well, the Auxiliary contributes to Meals on Wheels, provides bursaries for graduating high school students entering post-secondary education in health care, and has assisted the Princeton and nearby Erris volunteer fire departments.  “They’re the first responders and they’re well-trained,” she said.

Laila has served for more than eight years with the Princeton Auxiliary after moving to the Similkameen 10 years ago from the Lower Mainland.

The donation to the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation, gained praise from Carey Bornn, the foundation’s Executive-Director.  “That shows what an incredible Auxiliary they have in Princeton,” Bornn said. “Their support for their own community’s hospital and PRH is tremendous.”

The new PRH tower, which includes a rooftop helipad, will open on April 29.