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Hundreds hike for hospice

Funds raised will help expand facility and increase number of beds

May 7 was an emotional day for the Caya family.

Brothers Noel Jr. and Rick Caya and their family were among the hundreds of people to participate in the 10th RBC Hike for Hospice in support of Maison McCulloch Hospice.

Their father, Noel Caya Sr., passed away about three weeks ago after a brief battle with Stage 4 lung cancer. He was 86. He spent only one day at the hospice, but it was the best way for him to go, the brothers said.

“It's very difficult,” said Noel Jr. “He didn't want to go. He always told us he wanted another 20 years. Unfortunately, the cancer progressed so quickly.

“As a family, we were fortunate to have this man in our lives. Right up until three months ago, he worked six to eight hours a day cutting wood. His quality of life was good, and we benefited from it. We got to spend all those years with our dad, who exemplified strength of character, and in all my life, I've never met a kinder person.”

Rick said his father was a man who always saw the positive in life.

“His brief stay at the hospice was great,” Rick said. “They were very supportive and positive. Our experience was short, but the staff was amazing. I hope they continue to get the support through events like this walk so they can expand to accommodate more people.

Gerry Lougheed Jr., chair of the Maison McCulloch Hospice board, its campaign and its foundation, said about 500 people hiked from Grace Hartman Amphitheatre in Bell Park, along the boardwalk to Science North  then up Paris Street and back to the park. 

The goal for this year's RBC Hike for Hospice was to raise $165,000 — roughly 10 per cent more than what was raised last year.

The hospice has to raise $1 million every year for its operations, and money raised through the hospice puts a big dents in that fundraising, he said.

“The exciting thing this year, is we have announced we will be building a 16,000-square-foot addition to the existing building to add another 10 beds, and we need to raise $5 million to do that,” Lougheed said.

“In the last eight years, we've had 1,300 people spend their final days at the hospice. On a regular basis, we have a 94-per-cent capacity rate, and we have daily waiting lists. There's no pediatric bed in Northern Ontario, and our community programs are jammed to the rafters. That's why we have to build the extension.”

Most people see a hospice as a place of death, he said, but McCulloch Maison Hospice is not a place of death. 

“It's a place where we make sure people have the most life at the end of their journey, and to make sure the end of their journey is lived in dignity and respect. Our hospice program is the gold standard of hospice programs not only in Ontario, but across Canada. We have a team at the hospice who really make a difference in supporting people.”


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Arron Pickard

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