Happiness & Gratitude: Couple asks wedding guests to give to Hospice
Published on Thursday,12 December, 2019
Three years ago, youth director Betty Steenbeeker and drywall installer Arnold Winter were strangers to one another. Both belonging to Christian Reform churches, they had heard each other’s name spoken by mutual church friends, but their paths had never crossed. They were leading separate lives, making a living, being good parents, and coming to grips with the fact that their partners in life had been diagnosed with a terminal illness.
Before they would meet, the two would take a similar but separate journey down the road of caring for and eventually saying good-bye to the person they had hoped to spend the rest of their lives with. Their paths would take them to Stedman Community Hospice, where they would find the care they needed for their dying loved one -- and for themselves, the peace of mind to let go.
Little did they know that soon after the saddest chapter of their lives had been written, an invitation from a friend to fundraise for Stedman Community Hospice would bring them together, and a new story of love and hope would unfold.
On October 4th, 2019 Betty and Arnold were wed, in front of their five children and a large gathering of family and friends at Hope Christian Reformed Church,Brantford. The wedding invitation stated that instead of wedding presents, the couple would prefer that guests make donations to Stedman Community Hospice.
By mid-November, more than $12,350 dollars had been donated to Stedman Community Hospice as a result.
"We’re at that stage in our lives where we don’t need or want gifts, and for both of us, Stedman Community Hospice was just an incredible part of our journey.”
Betty and Arnold met in May of 2018 when their mutual friend, Nancy Hartholt, invited them to be part of her Hike for Hospice team. Nancy’s husband, Walt, passed away at the Hospice and she was putting together a team to raise money in his memory. In addition to meeting at a Hospice fundraiser, the couple, in their early 50s, have a deeply personal connection to the Hospice; in July of 2017, Betty’s husband Tony spent his final five days there. Several months later, Arnold’s wife Johanna came to the Hospice and passed away five weeks later.
"It was an incredible experience,” says Arnold.
"First of all, the surprise of finding out, the existence of in-home Hospice care to help Johanna with her pain and medication, that was incredible. And then to find out it was free was amazing, because that is the last thing you want to be dealing with at the time. And then to come to the Hospice itself and not have to worry about Johanna’s health or looking after her physical needs, was unbelievable.”
Betty shares a similar connection to the Hospice.
"A couple of times, the staff had brought Tony out to the garden in his bed. I remember sitting there thinking how can I be feeling so much peace, sitting here in this beautiful garden when my husband is so ill,” says Betty.
"I could not believe that in the chaos of life, and knowing that my husband wasn’t coming home again, how peace-filled I felt at the Hospice.”
"Being there allowed me to just let go of all those tasks, of caring for him, changing his clothing, trying to keep up with hygiene – it allowed me to just be his wife,” she shared.
About three weeks after meeting at Hike for Hospice, Betty and Arnold went out to dinner, and soon began spending more and more time together. Their journeys of losing their spouse after long battles with cancer, and talking about it with each other was a big part of the couple’s bonding process.
"Even though everyone’s story is unique, we could really understand what the other was going through. It was wonderful to have someone to share your grief with, someone you could be completely open and honest with,” says Betty.
"Some things that you wouldn’t necessarily share with other people, because they wouldn’t fully understand, with each other we had that safe place of being able to share right to the core.”
Nancy Hartholt, who has known both Betty and Arnold individually for three decades, and was good friends with Arnold’s deceased wife, Johanna, says it couldn’t happen to nicer people.
"In the midst of sadness and grief, they found joy in each other. I see it as such a blessing. And I can’t think of a better way for the two of them to honour their spouses than by requesting donations to the Hospice. It is such a worthy and needed place in Brantford, and I am thankful for their desire to see donations go there.”
Olga Consorti, President and CEO of St. Joseph’s Lifecare Foundation, the official fundraising organization for Stedman Community Hospice, noted that designating gifts in honour of a special occasion in lieu of presents, is a wonderful way to support the Hospice. It’s also the perfect present for the person who has everything!
In addition to weddings, people often make In Honour Gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, teacher gifts, Mother’s and Father’s Days, and Christmas. Often donors and employers who, instead of sending gifts to family, friends and employees at Christmastime, donate to the Hospice, and in their Christmas card, they include a note card from the Foundation that lets the person know a donation was made in their name.
For more information on how you can raise funds for the Hospice through a personal fundraiser, or to order In Honour cards, please contact Nancy Billard, the Foundation’s Director of Development & Communications at 519-751-7096, ext 2476.
St. Joe's Lifecare Foundation Leader to Retire next May
Published on Friday, 1 November, 2019
Hamilton Tiger Cats Meet and Greet St. Joe's Caregivers
Published on Thursday,24 October, 2019
Hike for Hospice Raises $338,000
Published on Wednesday, 5 June, 2019
Celebration of love' raises $338,000 for hospice
Top Youth Fundraiser 2019
Published on Wednesday, 5 June, 2019
Anderson's feel-good moment Continues
Ticats to Join Hike for Hospice on May 5
Published on Wednesday,10 April, 2019
$200,000 slated for Hospice
Published on Thursday,12 July, 2018
St. Joseph’s Lifecare Centre is in line to get a $200,000 in one-time funding from the city for the operation of the Stedman Community Hospice.
Council’s operations and administration committee unanimously backed a resolution this week to grant the money after a pitch was made by Olga Consorti, president of St. Joseph’s Lifecare Foundation.
Council will consider final approval on July 24.
The funding will help the hospice – founded in 2004, and one of 25 such facilities in Ontario – provide programs and services from the moment of diagnosis of a life-limiting malady, through their illness and grief journey.
"While the esthetics of our beautiful facility provide home-like comforts, the unparalleled hospice care is what sets us apart,” Consorti told councillors.
"We pride ourselves on being trailblazers in the province, being the fifth residential hospice to open in Ontario and a whole host of firsts, including the launch of our community outreach and our horticultural programs, among others.”
The hospice’s 10-bed Hankinson House provides round-the-clock care for anyone with three months or less left to live.
It provides a community outreach program that sees a team of professionals visit homes of patients in Brantford and Brant County. Outreach also is provided to Six Nations and Haldimand and Norfolk counties.
Councillors were told that the hospice has handled more than 450,000 in-home visits and consultations, resulting in thousands of emergency room diversions, better access to care and millions of dollars in savings to the health-care system.
Since the Ontario government funds only a portion of the hospice’s programs and services, the foundation carries on a fundraising campaign to meet the facility’s $3-million-plus annual budget.
Brant County council earlier this year donated $100,000.
"I’m delighted that council unanimously supported this funding,” said Coun. John Utley.
"That’s a strong recognition of the work that hospices do in communities for those who area in the last stages of life. The Stedman Community Hospice is a worldclass facility and a jewel in our community.”
Dying Ontario Boy's October Christmas Inspires Indian Film 'Uma"
Published on Friday, 6 July, 2018
In October 2015, people in the small southwestern Ontario town of St. George rallied together to throw an elaborate Christmas parade for a seven-year-old with an inoperable brain tumour who wanted to celebrate his favourite holiday one last time.
But although Evan Leversage tragically died on Dec. 6 of that year, just weeks before Christmas, his story did not end there. In 2017, his mother received a surprising Facebook message from award-winning Indian filmmaker Srijit Mukherji.
"In that message, he wanted to explain to me how Evan in St. George had inspired him to write the movie ‘Uma,’” Nicole Wellwood told CTV News Channel on Thursday. "I was actually quite shocked. You know, what happened here in October 2015 was absolutely incredible. But to inspire a movie to be done all the way in India is pretty remarkable.”
"It was absolutely fantastic,” Wellwood recalled. "There’s nothing that I wouldn’t want more than to have Evan here, but on the same note, to have his story and legacy live on in the way it has is absolutely incredible.”
Wellwood and Mukherji have since become friends, and although Wellwood says seeing the film was "absolutely emotional,” she added that the filmmaker’s "talent behind the camera is amazing.”
Mukherji also travelled all the way from India to St. George to present a special screening of the film Thursday night.
"To be able to share this film and bring it back to St. George to a community that rallied together to give Evan such happiness is absolutely going to be a night I can’t forget,” Wellwood said.
With files from The Canadian Press
Hike for Hospice
Published on Thursday,19 April, 2018
Hospice Christmas campaign seeks to raise $200,000
Before the Stewart family began a search for end-of-life care for five-year-old Charlotte, they knew little about Stedman Community Hospice.
Published on Tuesday, 5 December, 2017
"I had no clue a place like this existed," said Charlotte's aunt Cara Overduin. "I would drive by it and assumed it was an elderly care home. I was shocked there is this kind of gift in our community."
The hospice quickly became a haven for the large family, including Charlotte's parents, Jessica and Jeremy Stewart, who had been consumed with caring for their daughter, who was born with a neurological degenerative disorder so rare that Overduin said just two people in the world currently have it.
Not expected to live past the age of eight months, Charlotte's condition caused her to choke, aspirate and suffer from dystonia. She required a feeding tube and spent much of her time in hospital.
As Charlotte reached the final weeks of her life, hospital staff talked to the family about hospice care.
"It was a scary sounding thing," said Overduin.
"But we came (to the hospice) for a visit to check it out. It was breathtaking. It felt so homey. We were invited in for soup and coffee and we chatted on the couch."
The hospice first provided Charlotte, called Charlie by her family, with community outreach - sending doctors, nurses and social workers to support her in her St. George home.
"She went downhill really fast," said Overduin. "We called the hospice in desperation. They were full but they made space in the family room and got her in a day later.
"There was such a feeling of relief. The nursing staff was phenomenal. They were constantly offering support. They cared for her so tenderly. You could tell that they loved her.
"We had never seen (Charlotte) so comfortable or calm. We could hold her without the struggle."
Charlotte died on Sept.14, two days after celebrating her fifth birthday, complete with a big party in the hospice family room.
So grateful is the family for the little girl's care that Overduin has become a spokesperson for the hospice. And, blue-eyed Charlotte, pictured wearing a wreath of baby's breath on her head, is the first cover girl for Insight, a new booklet the hospice has mailed to donors for its Christmas fundraising campaign.
This year's campaign goal is $200,000.
In 2014, thanks to a successful fundraising campaign, the 10-room Hankinson House opened to replace the original hospice. It costs about $3 million a year to operate the hospice, which gets limited government funding for nursing costs. Half the money, said Olga Consorti, president and CEO of St. Joseph's Lifecare Foundation, is raised through donations from the community.
Consorti said hospice staff has handled more than 350,000 in-home visits and consultations, resulting in thousands of emergency room diversions, better access to care and millions of dollars in savings to the health-care system.
The hospice is one of only 25 such residential facilities in Ontario and its programs are open to people in Brantford, Brant and Six Nations. It offers a community outreach program, a day wellness program, a residential program for those diagnosed with three months or less to live, and a grief and bereavement counselling.
Consorti said Stedman is one of the few hospices that care for children.
There is no cost to families for hospice services.
"I can't think of one situation we can't help someone, either here at the hospice or at home," said Consorti.
Donations to the hospice's Christmas campaign can be made online at www.sjlc.ca, by calling 519-751-7096, ext. 2475, or by mail at St. Joseph's Lifecare Foundation, 99 Wayne Gretzky Pkwy, N3S 6T6, with cheques payable to the foundation.
Those who join the hospice's Monthly Giving Club, with donations spread over 12 months, will have their contribution matched by Kent Dixon, president of ROI Group. Those who are already club members can increase their monthly gift and that also will be matched.
"Words can never express how grateful we are," said Overduin. "I don't think people realize how much donations can mean."
Stories of Love and Life at Stedman Community Hospice are posted on YouTube.
Brantford Expositor 2017 ©