MILESTONE - Suzanne Alexander-Smith and Bryan Wilson stand by the donor wall of the Red Deer Hospice last week. The Hospice recently marked 10 years of service to the community.

Red Deer Hospice marks 10 years serving Central Albertans

Special celebration recently held to highlight the unveiling of donor wall

  • Sep. 23, 2015 2:50 p.m.

Red Deer Hospice staff, volunteers and the many families they’ve assisted came together recently to celebrate 10 years of making a tremendous difference in the lives of many Central Albertans.

Last week, a reception was held which included the unveiling of the new donor wall which recognizes the many contributions to the Hospice over the years.

“The idea was to thank and to honour our donors – many who have been with us for 10 years,” said past president Bryan Wilson, reflecting on the campaigns that have been held over the years to raise funds for projects and expansions.

On Sept. 15th, 2005, Red Deer Hospice opened with a compassion tour showcasing the brand new facility. The Hospice is a home for the terminally ill and provides a quiet and caring environment for individuals who are at the end of life’s journey, a home away from home.

“It’s also the first ‘purpose-built’ hospice in Alberta – as part of our journey, we looked at two other hospices and both were retrofitted, so this was the first hospice built as a hospice. They told us not to do what they did, but to build a brand new building,” he recalled.

Since opening, staff have provided care to more than 800 residents during their final days. More than 38,000 volunteer hours have also been logged since the Hospice opened as well.

Meanwhile, last week’s event was a very meaningful time for people with connections to the Hospice to gather and catch up, said current president Suzanne Alexander-Smith.

“It was great to see. They still feel very much connected and very invested with our mission and with the Hospice home. That’s great to see, and it’s an affirmation to them that they get to continue that and feel they are a part of that great legacy.”

The Society was formed in 1999 and as mentioned, through the generosity of individuals, organizations and businesses throughout Central Alberta, the Hospice was built in 2005. Currently, there is about a 95% occupancy rate, said Wilson.

“The board is doing some forward planning and looking at how can we respond to that,” he added.

But for now, and in light of the unveiling of the donor wall, it’s truly a season to reflect on what has proven to be an amazing decade. “The Hospice has become a big part of many people’s lives in Red Deer and Central Alberta.”

Alexander-Smith agreed, noting how she loves to hear stories from people who have been touched by the services the Hospice has to offer local families.

“I think the over-arching feeling here is that sense of peace and dignity that allows someone to transition through their end of life days in such a beautiful and tranquil environment. That tranquility also extends to families,” she said. “Often times, a resident has come to terms with it in a different way than family members have. So it gives those family members a sense of comfort, and a sense of hope that they are able to be with their loved one and just focus on the best parts of those last times.”

Families are grateful for the option to be able to have their loved ones there. “Conditions aren’t always going to be treatable to the last moment, so it’s a recognition of that, being able to embrace that and deciding what the path forward will be in that situation.”

Wilson emphasized the role that family support plays. “We do that aspect really well. Families are supported prior to the death, and during and after the death as well,” he said.

Counseling services are also available for as long as folks feel they need them. Trained bereavement support volunteers provide phone support after a death to family members and they also facilitate grief support groups which are also open to the public.

Staff have also always worked diligently to provide as ‘home-like’ an atmosphere as possible. Families are encouraged to bring virtually anything from home, from photos to ornaments to blankets – all in an effort to bring as much comfort as possible to both their loved one and to themselves. Pets can visit too.

Annually, a ceremony is held to honour loved ones where a there is a butterfly release. A number of fundraisers are also planned, including a gala set for Feb. 27th, 2016 and the RBC Dominion Securities Run/Hike for Hospice which is set for May 1st, 2016.

Meanwhile, the Hospice Society is pleased to welcome Ian Bos to Red Deer on Sept. 26th on the Alberta leg of his five-month long, cross-Canada journey from Nova Scotia to British Columbia. Staff is inviting the community to ‘Walk a Block’ with Bos by joining in at the Hospice at 4:30 p.m. as they walk from the Hospice parking lot through the Memorial Garden and around the lake and back to Hospice.

Bos began his journey on May 21st in honour of his late father, Ted Bos. Inspired to walk across Canada in gratefulness for the hospice care his father received before he passed away, Ian hopes to engage Canadians in the conversation regarding end-of-life care while raising $25,000 to support access to care in communities across the country.

Ian is walking an average 40 km a day, stopping along the way to participate in local events and fund raising activities to generate awareness regarding the benefits of hospice care. He is also encouraging donations to be directed to the Red Deer Hospice on behalf of his journey to ensure these local dollars stay within the community.

Those interested in helping out can do that by donating at

For Wilson and Alexander-Smith, it’s a fulfilling cause and an enduring passion to be sure. “People will stop me and say, ‘Do you have a minute? Can I tell you a story about my uncle who was in the Hospice?’ They talk about the care, how the food was amazing, how the staff is phenomenal and the building is amazing, too. This happens to me regularly,” said Wilson.

“We all have this great love for this mission, and for what we are doing.”

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