It started with an ambitious renovation of the 100 Mile and District General Hospital’s emergency room.
That’s why Allen Boyd and the other founding members of the South Cariboo Health Foundation came together 20 years ago. Many were former members of the hospital’s board of trustees who wanted to keep supporting the hospital.
“In 1999 I stepped down from the hospital board and it was shortly thereafter that Gordon Campbell booted out all the volunteers anyway and put in a paid regional board,” Boyd, 83, said. “We formed the foundation and the goal was to purchase special items for the hospital, Fischer Place and Mill Site Lodge that the ministry was not funding. We wanted to enhance the service and make it easier on staff to do their job.”
Boyd said the foundation received a big boost when it accepted a six-figure bequest shortly after forming. Using this money and other donations from community groups the foundation set about funding the emergency room renovation.
After their initial success Boyd, then president of the foundation, and the other members decided to keep on collecting funds for further upgrades to the hospital. They began running several different fundraisers including raffles and even a cheeky pin-up style calendar featuring hospital employees.
“I think the emergency room project spurred that on,” current president Chris Nickless said. “We realized that we got so much money from an individual that we better look at forming a better system to use local donations.”
One of their most successful partnerships by far was through the local Tim Hortons’ Smile Cookie Campaign. Boyd said that at one point 100 Mile’s cookie campaign was the largest in Western Canada, raising over $5,000 regularly.
Brenda Devine, director for public relations and fundraising, said that the money the foundation raised was used to purchase a wide range of essential equipment. The foundation purchased the hospital’s bus, a Lucas 3 chest compression system, a trauma stretcher, urology equipment, beds for the 100 Mile District Hospice Society and portable ventilators from TB Vets. All the items were chosen from a wish list the hospital started putting together every year.
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“As we had more money donated to us, more people would come to us with their needs,” Devine said. “If we had the money to do it, we’d more or less immediately purchase it.”
Over the last nine years, Devine has worked closely with Natalie Kulyk, the hospital’s director of clinical operations. Kulyk is responsible for liaising with the various departments and writing the wish list the foundation relies on. So far she said, the foundation has never disappointed.
“I am so impressed with how supportive they’ve been for us. There are very few things we come forward to them with that they don’t back and get behind,” Kulyk said.
Every year Kulyk said the hospital receives funding to purchase critical pieces of equipment to support services. Once these critical pieces are purchased she said the foundation steps in to purchase equipment that, while not necessary, makes life easier for patients and staff. The recently purchased Lucas chest compression system, for example, frees up doctors and nurses to do other tasks during an emergency.
“We could still do CPR without it and provide trauma care but it’s one of those pieces that really augment what we do in a positive way,” Kulyk said.
The foundation took off, Devine said, once it started organizing its annual Starry Nights campaign. Started in 2013 by MJ Cousins, it has become the foundation’s most popular fundraiser. Every year they seem to break new fundraising records thanks in large part to a core group of dedicated donors.
“The donorship now has considerably grown. It’s been successful and people really look forward to it,” Devine said. “I think it’s pride in this community and hospital. We have amazing people working here and we have good collaboration with management.”
Over the last 20 years, Devine said the foundation has raised close to $ 5 million that has been invested back into the hospital.
Nickless observed that in a way what they do is selfish. He said they know every piece of equipment they buy will one day be used to help treat themselves or someone they care about in the community.
Kulyk said the foundation goes the extra mile by inquiring after the mental health of staff. Throughout the pandemic, she said they’d reach out to her to ask what they could do to support them.
Boyd said he stepped aside in 2010 to let new people take over. They designed it so people could only serve two four-year terms so new people could come in and find new ways to raise money. Watching it grow and evolve since he’s left has been like watching one of his children grow up.
“Being able to help make things better is what it was all about,” Boyd said. “It was a labour of love on behalf of all of us.”