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Hike for Hospice a celebration of life, community

By: Darren MacDonald - Sudbury Northern Life

 | May 04, 2014 - 7:18 PM |

Hundreds walk at Bell Park, helping raise $150K for palliative facility

While choking up when describing the loss of their loved ones, the faces of participants in the RBC Hike For Hospice Palliative Care light up when they talk about the hospice.

“They treat the family there like they treat the patients,” said a smiling Karen Potivn-Marcoux, as she and her family made their way up the Jim Gordon Boardwalk on Sunday afternoon. “It's patient first, family next. It's just the greatest place.”

The eighth edition of the event again raised an impressive $150,000 for the hospice, which provides a loving and supportive place for terminally ill patients and their families. Since it opened five years ago, more than 800 people have taken their last breath there, including 169 in 2013.

The names of everyone who died the previous year were read out in the Grace Hartman Amphitheatre before walkers headed out on their trek. Their names were also pinned to purple ribbons along the fencing beside the amphitheatre, and families posed for pictures beside their loved ones' ribbon as they completed the walk.

Nathalie Depatie, hospice fund development co-ordinator, said the joy that people feel speaks to the role the hospice plays in the community.

“The point of the events, really, is to celebrate the life of the people that we've lost,” Depatie said. “Not to focus on the fact that they're gone, but the fact they were there and we get to enjoy the memory of them, even though they're gone.

“It's very rewarding to be able to fund raise for such a place – and to know that so many people are able to access those services. It makes it all worthwhile.”

Executive director Leo Therrien said the hike not only celebrates those who have passed – but those still living. While reading the names of those who have passed is a powerful moment, he said the joy people feel also comes from a sense of community among participants -- and the knowledge that life goes on.

“We always say grief is a process,” Therrien said. “Why do people come back year after year? I've met two people who have come back for eight years, and it's good to see them keep on living. They're happy. And they see people they've met over the years, the staff and volunteers at the hospice and other families, so it's a celebration of life here. That's why people are so happy.”

They hit their $150,000 target again this year, he said, but the amount may grow a bit as more donations come in this week.

“So, $150,000, if we can keep doing this every year, we'll be quite happy. It's a huge amount for us.”

Cousins Laura Vettoretti and Julia Chalut were at Bell Park on Sunday in memory of their grandfather, John Sporer, who passed away in March. The hospice gave them and the rest of their family a chance to deal with his passing without the day-to-day responsibilities of caring for someone who is dying.

“It was a really meaningful experience for us,” Vettoretti said. “For our grandmother, it meant being able to be his wife, not his caretaker. And for the family, to be able to embrace the last moments that we had with him, in a positive and caring environment, instead of it being stressful in the home and having to care for him. It was a chance for all of us to say goodbye in a peaceful way, and have our final moments with him.”

“The hospice really gave us a chance to reflect on his life, and to be there as a family, as opposed to taking care of him,” Chalut said. “They would have lunch and soup for us … It was really meaningful for us.”

“The people who work there and volunteer, we just can't say enough,” Vettoretti said. “It was amazing.”
Darren MacDonald

Darren MacDonald

Staff Writer


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