by Phil Ambroziak

“When we give at this event, we’re really giving back to ourselves.”

That’s what Dr. Gavin Van de Venter – emcee at Saturday’s 10th annual Festival of Trees in Meadow Lake – had to say about the community’s latest display of generosity, which netted more than $50,000 for the Meadow Lake Hospital Foundation and its ongoing commitment to improved health care throughout the Northwest.

Speaking on behalf of his fellow doctors, Van de Venter said it’s clearly obvious why the Festival of Trees has been such a successful event throughout the last decade.

“The Hospital Foundation has helped us to purchase equipment we’d normally never be able to afford,” he noted. “The medical world evolves at such a rapid rate and, although we are publicly funded, the government still gives us the freedom to fundraise for additional equipment to assist us in the care we provide.”

Items on the hospital’s wish list this year include a haematology slide stainer/cytocentrifuge, as well as a phlebotomy cart, chair and centrifuge for the lab along with a patient delivery cart for the hospital’s dietary unit and two high-end monitor/defibrillators for the local ambulance service.

“The hospital foundation, in collaboration with the Meadow Lake Lions Club, will be purchasing two LifePak 15 defibrillators for the EMS crew,” Van de Venter said. “We’re very grateful to the Lions for their help because this is a big investment, but one that’s long overdue.”

Lions Club members were on hand for the gala dinner at which time a cheque for $35,000 was donated directly to Meadow Lake EMS to cover the cost of one LifePak 15. The club also donated an additional $10,000 to the Hospital Foundation. Meanwhile, the foundation will use a portion of the money it has raised toward the purchase of the second defibrillator.

“These machines (LifePak 15) are part of their training,” remarked Lions Club president Garry Ratke. “If we don’t have access to them in Meadow Lake, some of these EMS workers aren’t going to stay here too long because they want to be able to do everything they were trained to do.”

Ratke also echoed Van de Venter’s earlier comments, stating it’s critical to ensure the hospital has as much up-to-date equipment as possible because, “the better the equipment, better the chance of saving lives.”

Sally Carlson, Festival of Trees co-chair, agrees, adding this is their largest fundraiser and a very important one for the community because it has helped us to both obtain and retain doctors over the years.

“This is because we’re able to use the money to purchase important medical equipment not budgeted for by the province,” Carlson said. “That’s how we’re able to have specialists come up here rather than have patients travel to North Battleford or Saskatoon for certain tests or treatments.”

Carlson went on to say the community’s support has only grown during the last 10 years.
“The community is absolutely fabulous,” she said. “A few years ago, we ended the night about $5,000 short of our goal, so five businesses each pledged $1,000 right then and there. Last year, more than $60,000 was raised. Our totals have been slowly and steadily getting higher over the years.”

Carlson went on to say the $50,000 calculated by the end of Saturday’s event is expected to grow considerably once all the final numbers have been tabulated.

Aside from donations, funds are raised through ticket sales, a Friday afternoon tea, a waffle breakfast and photos with Santa, as well as Saturday evening’s live auction of Christmas trees, wreaths, garland and more. This year’s event also featured a silent auction.