Hike for Hospice Raises $338,000
Published on Wednesday, 5 June, 2019

Celebration of love' raises $338,000 for hospice




A massive "celebration of love” on Sunday raised just over $338,000 for the Stedman Community Hospice.

Perfect walking weather drew as many as 2,000 participants to the 15th annual Hike for Hospice.

"We have lots of angels watching out for us, from above and on the ground,” said Olga Consorti, president and CEO of St. Joseph’s Lifecare Foundation, as a sea of participants wearing bright yellow hike T-shirts began to fill the parking lot at the St. Joseph’s Lifecare Centre on one of the season’s first warm sunny days.

Many hikers were there for a loved one who spent their final days at the hospice, which provides end-of-life care to people and support for their families free of charge.

Led by the Brantford Pipes and Drums, walkers streamed onto the streets surrounding the hospice for a one-kilometre stroll.

The names of everyone who has died at the hospice since it opened in 2004 was listed on boards outside the hike registration tent and printed on the commemorative hike T-shirts.

More than 20 members of "Team Cindy” designed their own shirts with their connection to Cindy Haalstra printed on the back: wife, mother, sister, aunt, friend.

Haalstra was a pediatric nurse who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016 and died at Stedman Hospice on Dec. 21, 2017, after spending three weeks in care. She was 54.

"The staff was just incredible,” an emotional Jeff Haalstra, Cindy’s husband, said before Sunday’s walk. "We laughed and cried together.

"A group of women came in to sing Christmas carols. I will always have that memory of listening to Cindy singing along to Silent Night.”

Haalstra was the top fundraiser at the hike, bringing in $4,425, which won him a $4,000 travel gift certificate, which he promptly donated back to the hospice in honour of its staff and volunteers.

Hospices across Canada host a hike to raise awareness and funding in support of hospice care as part of the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association initiative. The local event is one of the top hikes in Canada for the number of participants and money raised.

Eleven-year-old Ella Whiting and her cousin Makenzie Robb, 12, used Sharpies to write "Grandma Shirley” on the backs of their hike T-shirts.

Shirley Robb was 69 when she died at the hospice about 18 months ago.

"It is the most amazing experience for someone at the end of their journey,” said Robb’s daughter, Jackie Whiting. "The care the family receives is just amazing. It allowed dad to take on the role of husband and not caregiver in her final days.”

Whiting said volunteers provided comfort in many ways, including hot soup and fresh muffins to visiting family members.

Consorti said planning the Hike for Hospice is a "year-long love affair,” with the huge turnout "a credit to the amazing community we live in and how they value hospice care.” More than 100 volunteers help plan and run the hike.

"There’s something really special about the event,” said Consorti. "There is a beautiful energy.”

Janet Matteson said the care her stepfather, Andy Spain, received at Stedman Hospice in 2016 inspired her to become a personal support worker. She is now working at Emmanuel House, a hospice in Hamilton.

"I was blown away by how wonderful the care was,” she said on Sunday. "I wanted to pass that on to someone else.”

This year’s hike family was Jeremy and Jessica Stewart and their daughter, Vienna. Their daughter, Charlotte, who was born with a neurological degenerative disorder, celebrated her fifth birthday at the hospice, just two days before she died in September 2017. Soon after, they welcomed Lincoln "Charlie” to the family.

Walter Gretzky was the hike’s honorary chair.

"Thank you everybody for being here and caring,” he told the crowd.

The second place prize of a travel certificate for $1,000 went to Cathy Chenier from "Ruth’s Troops” who raised $4,118.

Anderson Whitehead won the top youth prize of a $250 gift card by raising an impressive $5,800.

On Sunday morning, nearly 60 cyclists took part in Bike for Hospice, collectively raising more than $11,000.

Top Youth Fundraiser 2019

Top Youth Fundraiser 2019
Published on Wednesday, 5 June, 2019

Anderson's feel-good moment Continues

Expositor Staff
Published on: June 4, 2019 | Last Updated: June 4, 2019 7:30 AM EDT
Anderson Whitehead, 11, raised $5,800 for the Stedman Community Hospice in the annual Hike for Hospice. With him are Walter Gretzky, honorary chair of the Hike, and Olga Consorti, President & CEO of St. Joseph's Lifecare Foundation.
Brantford's Anderson Whitehead, 11, won the prize for top youth fundraiser in last month's Hike for Hospice, raising $5,800 for Stedman Community Hospice.

Anderson's mother, Laura McKay, who died last Nov. 7 of cancer, received care at the Hospice. Her final wish was to help her son meet his idol, Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price.
The wish came true in February in an encounter that is in the running in the NHL Fan Choice Awards for Best Feel-Good Moment of the 2018-19 season.
Anderson has already started raising money for next year's hike, set to take place on May 3, 2020. He would like to at least double this year's $5,800 total.
Donations can be made in memory of his mother by visiting and completing the Tribute Information section. Alternatively, donations can be made by phone at 519-751-7096, ext. 2475, or by sending a cheque to St. Joseph's Lifecare Foundation at 99 Wayne Gretzky Pkwy, Brantford N3S 6T6. 
To vote for the video of Anderson's meeting with Price for Best Feel-Good Moment in the NHL Fan Choice Awards, visit
See also article from the Montreal Canadiens: From a Hug with Price to Fundraising with Mr. Gretzky.

Ticats to Join Hike for Hospice on May 5

Ticats to Join Hike for Hospice on May 5
Published on Wednesday,10 April, 2019

Members of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats will join the 15th annual  Hike for Hospice on May 5. The CFL players visited Stedman Community Hospice patients and families last year.

CHARLOTTE LIGHT PHOTOGRaPHYJeremy and Jessica Stewart with daughters, Charlotte and Vienna. Charlotte died at the Stedman Community Hospice on Sept. 14, 2017. The Stewarts are the hike family for this year’s Hike for Hospice.

"We are very excited to be welcoming players from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats this year,” said Olga Consorti, president and CEO of the St. Joseph's Lifecare Foundation, which raises funds for the hospice.

Consorti said the event is a "celebration of life and a day of remembering those we have loved and lost. "The energy is absolutely infectious, which makes it a very special day for all our participants.”

The hospice provides care for terminally ill people and support for their families. The programs and services are offered free thanks to fundraising efforts. Residents of Brantford, Six Nations, New Credit and the counties of Brant, Haldimand and Norfolk can all access hospice care. The Stewarts are this year’s hike family. Jeremy and Jessica Stewart are advocates for the hospice. Their daughter, Charlotte, was born with a neurological degenerative disorder and was not expected to survive past the age of eight months. After years of being cared for at home by her parents, Charlotte was admitted to the hospice in the summer of 2017. On Sept. 14, 2017, two days after joining Charlotte for her fifth birthday celebration in the hospice family room, family and friends said their final goodbyes. The Stewarts were able to access the free children's bereavement program to help their daughter, Vienna, cope with the loss of her sister. Soon after the passing of Charlotte, the Stewarts welcomed Lincoln to the family.

Registration for the hike is $20, which includes a commemorative T-Shirt, listing the names of every patient cared for at the Hospice. It also includes lunch and family-friendly games and activities.

Hikers are encouraged to register online at or in the foundation office at 99 Wayne Gretzky Pkwy.

Early bird check-in is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 4 is on the grounds of St. Joseph's Lifecare Centre at 99 Wayne Gretzky Pkwy.

Hike Day registration begins at 11 a.m. on May 5. Festivities kick off at 1 p.m.

Sharp Bus Lines is offering a free shuttle service from the Lynden Park Mall from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

For more details, to register or donate, go to or call the foundation at 519-751-7096, ext. 2475.

Donations can also be made payable to foundation and mailed to 99 Wayne Gretzky Pkwy., Brantford, N3S 6T6.

$200,000 slated for Hospice

$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

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.

"Uma” will be screened in several other Canadian cities in the coming weeks as well, including a July 21 showing in Calgary and one on July 28 in Mississauga, Ont.

With files from The Canadian Press

Hike for Hospice

Hike for Hospice
Published on Thursday,19 April, 2018

Hospice Christmas campaign seeks to raise $200,000

Hospice Christmas campaign seeks to raise $200,000
Published on Tuesday, 5 December, 2017

Before the Stewart family began a search for end-of-life care for five-year-old Charlotte, they knew little about Stedman Community Hospice.

"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, 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 ©
St. Joe's proposes retirement complex

St. Joe's proposes retirement complex
Published on Thursday,13 July, 2017

St. Joseph's Lifecare Centre wants to build a seniors retirement complex on its property.

The centre's board of trustees has issued a request for expressions of interest to construct a "state-of-the-art retirement facility" on the last remaining five acres of its property, which is bounded by Wayne Gretzky Parkway and Grey and Chatham streets.

Interested parties are being asked to attend a site meeting on July 28. The deadline for expressions of interest is Aug. 31.

"We are in the early exploratory stages," Derrick Bernardo, president of St. Joseph's, said in an interview Monday.

Bernardo said that, three years ago, the board completed a community health needs assessment, which identified as a priority the treatment of elderly residents. That assessment, funded through St. Joseph's Lifecare Foundation, complemented a master aging plan for Brantford and Brant County, which, in 2007, found that the area's population of 19,000 seniors would swell to nearly 40,000 by 2031.

"This projection does not include seniors moving into the community," Bernardo noted.

"We are always sensitive to the needs of seniors and we are always looking for ways of improving their quality of life."

The cost, size and number of units for the proposed retirement complex and a timetable for construction are unknown at this stage, Bernardo said.

"We are well positioned to do this because right beside where the building would go, we already have on the campus a lab, an onsite pharmacy, a multitude of physicians with an array of specializations, massage, clinical dietitian and art therapy services," he said.

"All can be accessed by residents who would be living in the complex. We want to create that community feeling and improve access to care and services at the same time."

The St. Joseph's complex now includes a long-term care home with 205 beds, the Stedman Community Hospice and Hankinson House, offices of the Canadian Diabetes Association, a continence care clinic, peritoneal dialysis program and facilities for urology research.
Brantford Expositor 2017 ©
Stedman building offering new programs

Stedman building offering new programs
Published on Monday,29 May, 2017

Story by Susan Gamble from the Expositor
The building that housed the community’s first hospice is in use once again with programs dedicated to improving life.
After the opening of the new Hankinson House, the Stedman Community Hospice building was closed and emptied in 2014 after providing end-of-life care for 10 years.
"A lot of people feel connected to this building and are interested just because of that hospice history,” said Shelley Murray, a recreational therapist who helped host an open house at the facility Friday that showed how the home-like setting of the Stedman Building is being re-used.
Built in 2004 with six residential bedrooms, a programming area and some office space, the hospice was quickly outgrown by the community needs and the building was deemed too small. In 2014, the much larger Hankinson House was built nearby where the hospice work continues.
Activities now being run in the building are St. Joseph’s Day Wellness Centre and Day Life Skills program, offered free or for a nominal charge to those in Brantford, Brant, Haldimand-Norfolk, Six Nations and New Credit.
The Day Wellness program is aimed at those 55 and older dealing with issues like social anxiety or isolation, difficulty with decision-making, impaired social interactions and unstable mental health conditions. It runs Tuesdays at the building and can include programming from walking to Zumba, music to meal preparations and yoga to art.
The Life Skills program, which runs on Thursdays, aims to help those with developmental or learning disabilities live more independent, active lives with programming like basic cooking and meal planning, cleaning and laundry, gardening, finances, time management, stress management and problem solving,
Participants in both programs have to be mobile with minimal assistance and be able to take their own medications.
"When clients come in, they set goals for themselves and we help them work toward them,” said Murray.
The building’s great room is large enough for many activities and the large kitchen lends itself to teaching classes.
The former bedrooms for hospice patients are now used as respite or nap areas for those who need a break from the programming and a board room for education portions of the day.
A beloved part of the original hospice is the extensive patio and garden area, which now connects to Hankinson House. Murray said horticulturalist Lynn Leach uses the space to do garden programming with both the Day Wellness and the Life Skills groups.
"We’re trying to fill a niche in the community and not repeat what other programs are doing,” Murray said, citing other day programs that focus on those with Alzheimer’s or those in an educational setting.
"I have a son with autism and know that after he’s 18 I’ll be looking for whatever programming is available because there isn’t much, and he’ll need something like this one day.”
The two programs have been running for about three and seven months but Murray said the group sizes have stayed fairly small, She’s hoping for a few more people to express interest in the programs, which are funded by the St. Joseph’s foundation.
"We work with the Community Care Access Centre to help with the goal of trying to keep people at home,” Murray said.
The new programs use about 60 percent of the existing space: office rentals and a Kidney Care centre are using other portions.
Murray emphasized that the facility is still the Stedman Building with the photo of the Stedman sisters at the front door.
For more information on the programs, call 519-751-7096, ext. 3315 or email

"I went from being a nurse to a wife again"
Published on Monday, 8 May, 2017

Hike for Hospice reaches all-time high of almost $305,000
News May 07, 2017 07:17 by Sean Allen Brant News

There are a lot of emotions tied to the Stedman Community Hospice, but it’s surprising how few of them are somber.

"The day (Murray) came in was a real combination of sad and happy,” Joanne Davis recalled of a day in 2012 when her husband Murray was admitted. "It was the same day my daughter Kelsey got married.”

Kelsey Mosher accelerated her wedding plans as Murray’s battle with his pancreatic cancer intensified in order to make sure her dad would be able to get in a few steps down the aisle with her.

"I relate all the memories as happy,” Kesley said. "He ultimately wanted to be there for me, but he also really wanted to spend his last days at the hospice.”

Murray would pass away six days later on July 29, 2012, in his 55th year.

Murray’s Marchers have been a team at the annual Hike for Hospice fundraiser every year since. They were a reduced crew on Sunday due to a family wedding and vacation, but still had 17 strong at the event. Some years they have more than 40.

On Sunday, they were part of an estimated 1,500 walkers who brought in a total of $304,796.75 for the hospice – a new fundraising record in the 13th year of the hike.

The six days Murray spent at the hospice are cherished by the family, especially Joanne.

"I went from being a nurse to a wife again,” she said. "It was so much more relaxed here than at home. I was able to sit with Murray and just visit with him.”

Joanne spent much of her time leading up to the hospice caring for Murray at the family’s farm near Burtch. There was also a lot of visitors, which kept Joanne in "hostess” mode.

"He was really happy to be (at the hospice),” Joanne said. "He said it was the place he needed to be."

Once admitted to the hospice, Murray’s stay and the visits by his family had an impact on the hospice staff, too.

Joanne started volunteering at the reception desk at the hospice last October. On one of her first days, one of the staff members asked why she recognized Joanne.

"I asked her if she remembered Murray and the concert,” Joanne said. "That clicked right away.”

The Davises, particularly Murray's nieces and nephews, are a musical family. While Murray was at the hospice, his sister-in-law arranged for some of them to come and perform a concert for him in the gardens behind the building.

"He was barely able to stay awake at that point in his battle, but you could still see his hand going … tapping time with the music,” Joanne said.

The family concert was taken in by other residents of the hospice at the time and is a personal favourite memory of at least one staff member.

The Davis family was just one personal story of thousands that have used the services of the Stedman Community Hospice.

St. Joseph’s Lifecare Foundation CEO and president Olga Consorti said it’s stories like those of the Davis family that make working at the hospice a pleasure.

"People ask me, ‘How am I not sad or filled with gloom and doom working in an environment of death?’” Consorti said. "And it’s because it’s literally making people’s dying wishes come true and giving families love at a time when they need it the most.

"We all have our down days, when we are sad and miss people. But knowing what the alternative could have been, and how they could have died without that support, really fuels us as staff everyday.”

The Hike for Hospice is especially important for the organization, as it’s the signature annual fundraiser for an operation that only receives funding for a portion of its nursing program. Everything else at the hospice – from the actual building itself, to medical equipment, furnishings, programs, meals, and even heat and hydro – must be funded through donations from the community.

"Because of you, the hospice has been able to help thousands of families in their end-of-life journey,” Consorti said to the crowd gathered in preparation to hike a kilometre around the Wayne Gretzky Parkway facility on Sunday.

"Because of you, the hospice is here for everyone regardless of their age, stage of illness, religion or financial status. Because of you and events like Hike for Hospice, our hospice patients will never get a bill for the care they so desperately need and deserve."

The commemorative T-shirts for the walk this year featured a design inspired by Canada 150, which incorporated the names of everyone who has ever come through the hospice for their final days.

Margit Offenhammer was the top individual fundraiser for the second time in the past three years, bringing in pledges of $11,880. Her personal three-year fundraising total has surpassed $25,000.

Daneka Miller was the top youth fundraiser, collecting $3,952.

Daneka is in a unique situation, as she’s already graduated Grade 8, but is still attending Grade 8 at North Ward School in Paris.

Staff at the Stedman Community Hospice rallied earlier this year to throw Daneka and 10 of her friends an early graduation ceremony after her mother, Cindy Miller, was admitted to the hospice on Jan. 27. Cindy was diagnosed with a brain tumour in November 2016.

The hospice family room was decked out in the blue and gold colours of North Ward School, while Daneka and her classmates were outfitted with last-minute dresses and suits. With the help of teachers from North Ward, the graduation ceremony took place prior to Cindy’s death on March 10.

On Sunday, Daneka organized a team of 44, made up of classmates, friends and their families. Team Miller/Sellars was organized by Daneka and her classmate Owen Sellars, whose mother passed away in 2014 and was a patient of the hospice’s outreach program.

The grand total from the hike of almost $305,000 blew past last year’s previous record of $281,000.

Consorti said the hike feels additionally fortunate in getting two title sponsors agreeing to share the spotlight this year, with both Remedy’sRx and Methapharm making significant corporate donations.

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