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 ©
St. Joe's proposes retirement complex
St. Joseph's Lifecare Centre wants to build a seniors retirement complex on its property.
Published on Thursday,13 July, 2017
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
Published on Monday,29 May, 2017
"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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I went from being a nurse to a wife again"
Hike for Hospice reaches all-time high of almost $305,000
Published on Monday, 8 May, 2017
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.
Hike for Hospice raises over $304,000
Published on Monday, 8 May, 2017
The mother and daughter stood under a blue sky in the parking lot of the St. Joseph's Lifecare Centre on Wayne Gretzky Parkway that was filling with walkers on Sunday. They were waiting for other members of their Murray's Marchers to assemble for the start of the 13th annual fundraiser, which raised $304,796.
They said that they participate in the event because, five years ago, Davis's husband, Murray spent his last six days in the hospice, which is operated by St. Joseph's, before succumbing to pancreatic cancer.
"The day he came in, Kelsey was getting married," Davis explained.
"We lived on a family farm in Burtch. We asked him if it was hard leaving the farm for the last time. He said, 'No, this is the best place for me to be,' and everyone could visit him at the hospice."
"So, he went to the wedding and could take four or five steps down the aisle with me," Mosher said.
At the hospice, staff set up to allow everyone to visit Murray on the back patio in the gardens. And since they are a musical family, the Davises put on a concert for all the hospice patients.
Mother and daughter said Murray was well cared for in his final days.
"It was a place that treated him with so much respect," said Mosher.
Davis volunteers once a week at the hospice.
Mother and daughter started Murray's Marchers. Some years, the group has had as many as 30 marchers who raised $9,500. This year, 10 turned out and raised $3,500.
Daneka Miller and Owen Sellars, students at North Ward Public School in Paris, teamed up to raise money for the hospice. Thirteen-year-old Daneka lost her mother to a brain tumour after spending her last days in the hospice, and Owen, also 13, lost his mother while she was in the hospice's outreach program.
The two recruited a team of 44 members. Their team had a $1,000 fundraising goal, but had raised $12,635 by hike day.
Olga Consorti, president and CEO of St. Joseph's Lifecare Foundation, said she was grateful for Sunday's good weather after days of rain.
"We had angels watching over us. We really did," she said.
This year's hike drew nearly 1,500 walkers.
Among those introduced to the crowd were Cheryl Moore, the hospice's executive director, honorary chairman Walter Gretzky, Brantford-Brant MP Phil McColeman, Brant MPP Dave Levac and Elsie Hankinson, who with her husband, Lorne, who died in 2011, donated $1 million toward construction of Hankinson House, the new 10-bed hospice that opened in 2014.
The Brantford Pipes and Drums escorted hikers onto their route.
The Hike for Hospice includes a one-kilometre route around the St. Joseph's neighbourhood at Wayne Gretzky and Grey Street,
Margit Offenhammer was the top individual fundraiser with $11,880.
The top youth fundraiser was Daneka Miller with $3,952.
The top fundraising team will be announced once everything is counted.
Last year, more than 1,500 hike participants raised $281,000.
The hike is the only fundraiser organized by the hospice. The rest of the facility's operating expenses - between $1.5 million and $2 million a year - come from corporate contributions, personal donations and memorial donations.
Only a portion of nursing care at the hospice is offset by government funding. Utility costs, medical equipment, furnishings, food and other expenses are all covered through community funding.
SC Johnson donates $500,000 to the Stedman Community Hospice Hankinson House
SC Johnson lighting the way for grieving families
Published on Friday,21 April, 2017
News Apr 20, 2017 by Victoria Gray, Brant News
SC Johnson donated $500,000 to the Stedman Community Hospice Hankinson House and the SC Johnson Way wing of the hospice was unveiled Thursday at the hospice on Grey Street. From left General manager SC Johnson Chris Moeller, Ron Webb with his wife Ruth Webb who is currently a resident and Elsie Hankinson, the hospices' namesake who donated $1 million from the Lorne and Elsie Hankinson Charitable Foundation in 2012. - Victoria Gray/Metroland
Ruth Webb doesn't know how much longer she has, but she's glad to spend the reminder of her days at Stedman Community Hospice Hankinson House.
"You couldn't find a better place,” she said. "You can tell this isn't just a job for them, it's a calling.”
The Port Dover resident has cancer in her left eye and in her lungs that has metastasized, but she and her husband Ron say they are glad to be welcomed to the hospice.
"I wouldn't want to be anywhere else, well I would, but under the circumstance,” she joked. "It's a lovely place. I say this is heaven's waiting room and heaven has some shoes to fill.”
SC Johnson Canada donated $500,000 to the hospice this month and the SJ Johnson Way wing was unveiled on Thursday during a celebration and tour of the hospice.
Olga Consorti, president and CEO of St. Joseph's Lifecare Centre said staff chose the name because of the company's philosophy of giving back and long history of supporting the community.
"It is SC Johnson's way to help out and we really appreciate that,” she said.
During a reception before the unveiling Chris Moeller, general manager of SC Johnson Canada, and executive director of the hospice Cheryl Moore lit a candle together to signify their partnership and lighting the way for others together, while maintaining their own glow.
"When we light the way for others it does not extinguish our own flame, it just makes the world a brighter place,” Consorti said.
Moeller said no matter what country SC Johnson has operated in, it contributes to the local community because it's something it believes in.
"We've heard so many inspiring stories from employee volunteers and employees who have unfortunately, had to use the hospice that people feel loved, supported and empowered. I think these are really powerful words,” he said. "These things don't happen without vision, resources and time from community members.”
Ready to take a hike?
Published on Friday, 7 April, 2017
It was her dying wish to be with 13-year-old Daneka to celebrate the milestone event.
Staff at the Stedman Community Hospice, where Miller, who was suffering a brain tumour spent the last weeks of her life, were committed to making that happen.
In a single day, they organized a graduation ceremony that included 10 of Daneka's North Ward School classmates and a group of teachers. They helped the young grads get dresses and corsages, decorated the hospice family room in the school colours of navy blue, white and gold, and brought in homemade baked goods.
They did Miller's hair and makeup and wheeled in her bed so she could be part of the day.
"She couldn't talk but she knew what was going on," said Darrin Miller, Cindy's husband of 20 years. "It was very emotional for her. "It was her last wish and, once the graduation was over, you could tell she was satisfied."
Miller, an elementary teacher who lived in Paris, died on March 10 at the age of 43.
It's not unusual for staff at the hospice, which is operated by the St. Joseph's Lifecare Centre, to make end-of-life wishes come true for their patients.
"This was our first graduation, but we've had weddings and birthdays here," said Olga Consorti, president and CEO of St. Joseph's Lifecare Foundation. "We want to ensure patients live before they die."
Grateful to the hospice staff who looked after Miller for six weeks and who became more like family than caregivers, Darrin Miller, Daneka and a huge team of supporters will be among the walkers in the 13th annual Hike for Hospice on Sunday, May 7.
Last year, more than 1,500 hike participants raised $281,000. This year, Consorti said they're hoping to surpass that.
"The success of the hike is vital to our ability to offset hospice programming to ensure that no patient or family ever gets a bill for the care they need and deserve," said Consorti.
It is the only fundraiser organized by the hospice. The rest of the facility's operating expenses - between $1.5 million and $2 million a year - come from corporate contributions, personal donations and memorial donations.
Only a portion of nursing care at the hospice is offset by government funding, said Consorti. Utility costs, medical equipment, furnishings, food and other expenses are all covered through community funding.
"The hospice is one of the biggest community treasures," said Consorti. "It is funded by the community for the community."
The Hike for Hospice includes a one-kilometre route around the St. Joseph's neighbourhood at Wayne Gretzky Parkway and Grey Street, which participants are encouraged to do as many times as they wish.
This year, hospice staff will celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary with a commemorative hike T-shirt. There are also early bird draw prizes for anyone who registers and raises $100 or more by April 27. Prizes include white gold sapphire and diamond earrings, a 40-inch television and men's designer sunglasses.
Top fundraisers will be able to choose from prizes, including a $1,500 travel gift certificate donated by Goliger's Travel Plus, or a $2,000 travel voucher donated by Via Rail. The top fundraising team will get a $1,000 gift certificate donated by The Keg Steakhouse, and top youth will get a $100 gift certificate for toys.
Sharp Bus Lines is donating the use of buses so hike participants can park at the Lynden Park Mall. The shuttle will run from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on hike day. Everyone who parks at the mall will be entered into a draw for a $250 mall gift card.
Everyone who collects $250 will get a selfie photo stick. Hikers will receive a ballot to be entered into several draws for donated prizes, including gift cards, a gym membership, a television, a gift basket, and a junior B 99ers season pass.
The hike begins at 1 p.m. with a celebration of life service to honour lost lives and those living with life-threatening illness.
Early bird registration day is Saturday, May 6, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the St. Joe's parking lot at 99 Wayne Gretzky Pkwy, where the hike begins and ends.
Consorti said everyone is encouraged to pre-register, to reduce lineups on hike day, at www.stedmanhike.ca and come to the early bird with their pledges.
The registration fee for hikers is $20, which includes a T-shirt, barbecue and festivities.
Registration on hike day starts at 11 a.m.
More information is available at www.stedmanhike.ca or by contacting Michelle Biro by telephone at 519-751-7096, ext. 2475, or by email at email@example.com.
Showing support for Brantford's hospice
Victoria Gray, Brant News
Published on Tuesday,31 January, 2017
Debbie Clayton knows tragedy can strike anyone of any age at any time.
In that difficult time, she wants families to know they have the support of the community behind them making sure that at Stedman Community Hospice families, not just patients, are taken care of.
"Families can stay at the hospice and get fed while your loved one is there,” she said. "So they don't have to go home.”
Clayton hopes the third annual Hugs for Hospice helps keep families together and taken care of in their time of need at Stedman.
The fundraiser is Feb. 4 at the Gunners' Club on Henry Street. The doors open at 5 p.m. for a sit down roast beef dinner, live and silent auctions, a dance and a buffet at 10 p.m.
To date, the fundraiser has given more than $10,000 to the hospice and are shooting to raise $10,000 this year.
"It's supposed to be a happy event,” she said. "People want to be remembered definitely, but they don't want you to be sad.”
Nicole Wellwood, Evan Leversage's, mother will give a speech about the hospice and how it affected her life during seven year old Leversage's last days with an inoperable brain tumour two years ago after the St. George community gave the family an early Christmas.
There will be a Sponge Bob Square Pants placed on a table and all donations left will go to the hospice in memory of Leversage.
Matt Cummings, owner of StillWaters Plate and Pour and the Cobblestone Pub House and Clayton started the fundraiser after Clayton's battle with cancer. Four years ago she was diagnosed with stage four melanoma and a few months later breast cancer. After countless chemotherapy sessions, more than 30 days of radiation, 11 surgeries and more, she's still alive to tell the tale, when many friends are not.
"My view on life has changed so much,” she said. "This is a way for me to give back and help other people.”
The live auction has two West Jet tickets to anywhere they fly, a restaurant tree with more than $500 in gift certificates, a spa tree with over $500 in gift certificates and much more.
"It's a great cause,” she said. "They make you feel very comfortable.”