Lori Dufresne, Red Deer Hospice Society event co-ordinator, said the agency cares for patients and their families during their end-of-life journeys. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff

WATCH: Run/Hike for Hospice supports end-of-life journey for central Alberta families

For some walkers and hikers, it was a regular day. But for others, it was an emotional one at the Run/Hike for Hospice in Red Deer.

Red Deer’s Chantelle O’Docharty said she couldn’t support the Red Deer Hospice Society enough Sunday after she finished a one-kilometre hike.

Her mom, Carol Weisenburger, who was a nurse, and in good shape for most of her life, died three years ago.

“I did it in memory of my mother, and their grandmother,” said a teary-eyed O’Docharty, pointing to her three children.

O’Docharty remembers everything the society did in Weisenburger’s final days, when she had diabetes and kidney failure.

“She spent two weeks in the hospice, and it was a game-changer for us. It’s everything we ever imagined as an end-of-life journey,” she said, adding “it’s been a good, emotional day.”

Red Deer resident Steve Pavlick has a similar story about his father, who died from cancer. It was a tough decision to move his dad to hospice at the time, but it was also the right one for the family.

“The defining thought was that my mom could be his wife in the final days, instead of his care giver, and they really facilitated that,” he said about his 83-year-old father Frank, who spent about three months at the Red Deer hospice.

Lori Dufresne, Red Deer Hospice Society event co-ordinator, said the service provided at the end-of-life care facility helps take pressure off families so they can enjoy precious moments with wives, husbands, daughters and sons.

She said the event is a national one, and many hospices across Canada were hosting it Sunday.

Events such as the run/hike fundraiser are important to support all the work the society does, she said.

“We’re partially funded by AHS and we have costs that equate to $25 per resident, per hour. Most of that needs to be raised within the community. We’re an all-access facility, so no one is ever denied access based on financial means, so the support means we can keep our doors open,” the event co-ordinator explained.

The hope for the friendly Sunday event was to raise $60,000. Dufresne said that’s an “ambitious goal.” Last year, the same event raised $40,000.

“Before we even started today, our runners and hikers had already raised $30,000,” she said, adding about 275 pre-registered for the event.

All the proceeds will stay within the community, Dufresne said.

Construction is underway for the growth of the palliative care facility, which will include an additional six beds, enhanced family lounges, quiet areas and multi-purpose rooms for community programming.

The expansion of Red Deer Hospice Society was in response to increasing community demand.

“So we will have 16 resident rooms. That will enable us to serve an extra 100 residents and their families.”


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Chantelle O’Docharty hiked for one kilometre with her husband and three children (from left) Carolyn, Eli and Oliver Sunday. She did it to honour her mother Carol who was at the Red Deer Hospice Society before she died about three years ago. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff

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