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Foundation celebrates successful 10 years

Both founding and current board members, along with more than 100 district supporters, came together Saturday night at the Emo Legion to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Riverside Foundation for Health Care—and look forward to many more years to come.

“It’s such a pleasure to be here tonight. It’s amazing to me that 10 years have gone by,” said Clare Brunetta, the founding chair of the Foundation who helped to establish the bylaws, mission, and vision for the fundraising group.

“On a night like this, when we’re about to fall back to standard time, I think it’s appropriate that we have a minute to fall back 10 years,” he added, noting the original board members, consisting of Jim Gartshore, Doug Anderson, David Berry, Irene Meades, Wendy Frattolin, Jack McTaggart, Joan Allison, and Larry Cousineau, helped to get the Foundation “off to a great start” to where it is today (both Allison and Cousineau remain board members to this day).

Brunetta also said Jan Beazley was a “tremendous help to me when we initially got the Foundation off the ground,” along with former hospital CEO Paul Brown.

Beazley was the Foundation’s first director, and when Brown left, Beazley took his position and Wendy Frattolin became Foundation director.

Shortly thereafter, Frattolin moved away and current Foundation director Teresa Hazel came on board.

“Teresa’s been here for a long time and has really been here for the glory days of the Foundation, and I want to thank Teresa for all of the effort you’ve put in, all of the events you’ve organized, and the success that you’ve led the Foundation to,” Brunetta said.

He recalled that 10 years ago, “there were a lot of trials and tribulations we went through getting the Foundation off the ground.”

“At the time, it doesn’t seem like it can be so now, but 10 years ago, it was a certain extent controversial that the Foundation was established,” he noted. “A merger had only recently taken place with respect to the hospitals in Rainy River and Emo and Fort Frances. We were very cognizant of, to a certain extent, the competition that existed between those organizations.

“We were cognizant of the efforts that had been made by the various hospital auxiliaries, and the tremendous amount of work they had done and the money that they had raised, and there was a certain amount of trepidation at that time about how a new Foundation would come together and hopefully be able to organize and assemble all these fundraising efforts under one roof,” added Brunetta.

“I’m pleased and proud to say that happened.”

Current chairman Larry Cousineau said that since its inception, the Foundation has proven to be extremely successful.

“The Foundation has raised, with the help of everyone in the district, $6.2 million over the past 10 years. That’s a terrific amount of money and it all came from people like yourselves sitting here tonight,” he enthused.

“I can’t say enough to thank you for what you’ve done.”

Cousineau also stressed the importance of the work done by the three hospital auxiliaries, who’ve altogether contributed $600,000, or about 10 percent of the 10-year total.

He added the three auxiliaries have purchased equipment ranging from shower chairs, mobile beds, blanket warmers, wheelchairs, and physiotherapy equipment to breast pumps, billy blankets, a ventilator, and surgical equipment.

“And they bring all kinds of good will to the hospitals in the district,” noted Cousineau.

He added there’s been noticeable improvements to district health care in the past 10 years. Rainy River has seen a new hospital built there while the Emo Health Centre was re-developed and La Verendrye Hospital expanded and enhanced.

As well, a new CT scanner should be installed at La Verendrye in the next few months.

Wayne Woods, CEO of Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc., said he’s grateful to the Foundation and its supporters for giving district health care the boost they have over the past 10 years.

“It’s my honour to, on behalf of the staff, the board, and the corporation, to acknowledge what the Foundation has actually done for us.

“I’ve been around hospitals for 25 years. I’ve seen different foundations, I’ve seen different organizations, I’ve seen different auxiliaries, but I have never in my career seen a foundation or auxiliaries or volunteers really come to the plate like this community does,” he remarked.

“You have raised over $6.2 million in the past 10 years—that’s pretty amazing,” he added. “Would we be where we are right now without the volunteers, without the Foundation? No.

“Eventually we would get there, and we’d do it all by ourselves,” Woods remarked. “What you do is make the road a lot easier for us.

“Our job is to deliver health care. But you make our jobs so much easier by providing us with great facilities, great equipment, and it allows us to do a lot of things that perhaps we couldn’t do.”

Woods pointed out a recent example was the “Just Imagine” campaign, chaired by Deane Cunningham, which saw $1.5 million raised in a matter of months.

He added the CT scanner will be “up and running in the new year.”

Hazel agreed “the past 10 years have been incredible.”

“All of you here tonight, and so many others, have contributed to the Foundation’s success and, ultimately, a difference in the delivery of health care across the Rainy River District,” she said.

“You all deserve a great big round of applause.

“I’m so grateful for every single volunteer and every donation that has so generously been given to the Foundation over the years,” added Hazel.

She also thanked the current board of directors, consisting of Cousineau, Cunningham (vice-chair), Allison, Wendy Judson, Dixie Badiuk, Laurene Hannam, Heather Oltsher, Dan Henderson, Ian McLennan, Woods, and John McTaggart “for their feedback and direction.”

Hazel said she’s learned so much from various board members in her eight and-a-half years with the Foundation—and is grateful for it.

She also acknowledged Cunningham and McTaggart for heading up the very successful “Just Imagine” and “Care Close to Home” campaigns, respectively, and Tom Bruyere and Bill Michl for walking and running for the dialysis unit at La Verendrye Hospital and CT scanner, respectively.

Hazel also called the hospital auxiliary members “pioneers” of fundraising and volunteerism in the district, adding, “You’ve really shown us the way.”

And events like Saturday night’s anniversary celebration wouldn’t be possible without the likes of the Foundation’s special events committee.

“Here’s a bunch of ladies who know how to take the bull by the horns and get the job done,” Hazel said.

Joan Allison, chair of the Foundation’s special events committee, thanked her committee members for their hard work in planning such successful fundraisers.

“Our endeavours are only as good as the people who have supported them. Without you, we’d be nowhere,” she stressed.

Allison said the current special events committee, comprised of herself, Hazel, Janice Cousineau, Karen Woods, Mary King, Tammy Kellar, and Lyn Henderson, have been doing a great job, and welcomed new members Debbie Gaylord and Megan Ross.

Allison also thanked all the district residents who have come out to the Foundation’s special events over the years, noting that in a perfect world, no one would have to use the district health care facilities.

“But if you do, you’ll be glad you’re all so generous,” she added.

The evening, which followed a “Wild West” theme, also included a chili and hotdog supper, prepared and donated by the Emo Legion, as well as a very popular “Poker Showdown” game (five-card stud, with half the winnings going to the Foundation) and a coin toss game called, appropriately enough, “Heads or Tails.”

Many of the prizes for the latter, as well as the evening’s door prizes, were made by special events committee members.

Entertainment was provided by John Rafferty, who sang and played the guitar and the International Falls-Fort Frances Mighty Fine Line Dancers (who also offered lessons to those at the party).

As well, Dan Jones of Top Music Productions played music before and after supper so guests could stay and dance the night away after the evening’s formal program was over.

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