North Bay man shares experience as northern hospices launch new fundraising efforts

Last year, the Nipissing Serenity Hospice in North Bay gave resident Chris Plummer a bigger gift than he could have asked for –- more time with his father.

“My experience with the hospice was very overwhelming,” said Plummer, whose dad stayed at Nipissing Serenity Hospice for three months in 2020. “Very positive and full of compassion and care for my dad. My dad, we were very fortunate that my dad rebounded because of the care he received from the team here and it provided me an extra three months, a really good three months to spend with my father.

Plummer’s father went into hospice care on Valentine's Day after being told he shouldn’t have seen his birthday on Feb. 11.

“The wonderful staff here, Dr. Rappaport, changed his medications around and it was almost an instant effect where he started to rebound and got his faculties back to the point where 2-3 days later we were in the kitchen having dinner. And from that point on he got stronger,” Plummer said.

He said the extra time and care at Nipissing Serenity Hospice gave him the time he needed to prepare for his final goodbye.

“I had an opportunity to not only say 'goodbye,' but we talked about so many things and we didn’t leave anything unsaid or undone that we didn’t want to do,” Plummer said.

With many patients choosing end-of-life care, officials said they need help from the community so they can continue to provide support to both patients and their families.

Both Nipissing Serenity Hospice in North Bay and the Maison McCulloch Hospice in Sudbury have launched 50/50 raffle draws to help bring more money in while also giving back to those in the community.

“It is crucial,” said Gil Pharand, the executive director of Nipissing Serenity Hospice. “Our funding is only about 60 per cent from the government, so it’s important for us to raise that additional 40 per cent, and this seems like a great way to do it.”

This fundraising goal is also being seen in Sudbury with over $1 million needed every year.

“Historically, the community has been very supportive,” said Gerry Lougheed Jr., the chair of the Sudbury Hospice Foundation. “The government funding is a bit lacking with regards to the hospice. For the nurses and the (personal support workers), they provide literally the funding for their payroll but everything else in the hospice we must raise in the community.”

Hospice services are free for patients, however, even with the COVID-19 pandemic changing fundraising efforts over the last year, that 40 per cent still has to be raised.

“It’s one of those things that when COVID came about we had a lot of fundraising planned and a lot of those plans were derailed... because of COVID and the climate of things going on in the public,” Pharand said. “So we had to think a bit strategically as to what we can do. For us, one of the big things that we want to do is get out there, face-to-face, talk to people, but that’s not possible. So a 50/50 raffle is a way that we can still do some outreach, raise some funds and give some of our supporters a chance to win as well.”

For the Nipissing Serenity Hospice, there is a minimum prize of $5,000 each month and the draws are proving to be quite successful in the community.

“In the first three days of sales, we’ve generated approximately $15,000 in sales,” Lougheed said. “So we’re quite excited that people are very much supporting the hospice and it’s a win-win.”

The online draw also allows people from across the province to support and try their chance at winning.

Over the last decade, the Maison McCulloch Hospice has helped approximately 1,800 people, proving that there is a big need for end-of-life care in the area. The money from the draw is expected to only make the experience better, according to Lougheed.

“Under the license of this 50/50 draw, the monies must be used with regards to supporting the care, programs and operational expenses of the hospice. In other words, this money isn’t put in the bank for some investment or capital project, this money will literally go back to keeping the doors open and providing the best care,” he said.

Lougheed said the hospice provides comfort and support to residents and their families at a very difficult time.

“I don’t think people come to the hospice to die, but rather they come to the hospice to live on their own terms -- their final days -- with respect, with love, with dignity, with family and friends present,” Lougheed said.

There is no official fundraising goal for either hospice, but organizers are hoping it will allow them to continue providing care and support in the community.

“Hospices are very important because it allows people to pass away as peacefully and with as much dignity as possible,” Plummer said.

“Something that cannot be even closely replicated at a hospital and for most people of average means, you couldn’t begin to do it at home.”

With almost a year between Plummer’s recent visit to the hospice, where he shared his experience during the 50/50 launch, he was happy to remember his dad with so many people who helped impact his life during those final weeks.