Formerly annual fundraiser to support healthcare at Sundre among many events returning after pandemic cancellations
Sunder – After being unable to arrange the Sundre Hospital Legacy Gala for the past two years due to COVID-19 restrictions on indoor gatherings, the organizers were a little nervous after getting a little rusty, but they were never less excited to hit the ground running. .
“It’s a really strange feeling,” said Gerald Engfield, chairman of the Sundry Hospital Futures Committee, which has organized the ceremony since opening in 2016.
Engfield told Albertan During an interview at Sundre Community Centre, where on Friday, November 18, volunteers were already busy setting up the facility.
At the time, everyone was excited about getting the job done and almost everything seemed to fall into place, he said of the first concert.
However, this time after being forced to cancel the event in both 2020 and 2021, he openly admitted that the committee was a little worried about inadvertently ignoring or forgetting some logistical details.
“Of course all of this is related to what happened during the COVID period,” he said. “So it’s a challenge.”
But if he was nervous, Engfield certainly didn’t show it, and instead showed confidence and enthusiasm.
“We want everything to go well,” he said. “We know it’s going to be; we’ve got a great community behind us, and we’ve got great people helping us. There’s not much that could go wrong.”
The concert was hosted last Saturday evening at the Community Centre, with about 200 ticket holders in attendance with a total of about 230 including volunteers.
After about two years of great upheaval in daily life, the organizers chose “Moving On” as the theme for the concert’s comeback.
“We feel like we’re sitting still and waiting to go,” he said, comparing it to racehorses chomping until the gates open so they can finally gallop.
“We’ve been through some tough things and we’ve moved on,” he said. “And the gates are open now, so there are endless possibilities of what we can do.”
As for the party’s comeback, the organizers sought to extend the evening to include a dance largely due to feedback from people who had attended the event in the past and felt it ended a bit early considering they had dressed up for a night out. The party this year concluded around 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and featured a dance floor with live music by Dustin Farr that went on for hours after the formalities, he said.
Among the dignitaries and officials who addressed the crowd were Sundre Mayor Richard Warnock, Mountain View County Reeve Angela Aalbers, Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA Jason Nixon, as well as representatives from the Rural Health Professions Action Plan and the Alberta Health Services Central District.
“It went very well,” Engfield said Monday morning during a follow-up interview. “It was at least the energy and the fun we had in the past. He’s right up there with the best party.”
Attendance was exactly as the organizers expected, although this year there were fewer tables set up to create a more comfortable space for dancing.
“Doing the dance we wanted to do, we needed a little more space. It was more comfortable. We were horribly crowded the first couple of years,” he said.
Among this year’s organizational wrinkles that will be ironed out next year are the duration of the titles and award shows, which have run a bit longer than expected, he said, adding that the start time for the dance is likely to roll back a little later.
“It was a very busy night,” he said.
But this delay did not seem to dampen the general mood of the people, as the music was played well into the wee hours of the morning.
“I hung on until about a quarter to one, and then that was all I could take,” he said, laughing, adding that the dancing continued until about 2 a.m. and that the organizers had yet to hear “anything but good feedback.”
“Everyone had a good time,” he said.
Local healthcare support
Aside from ticket sales, money was also raised through a live auction conducted by Rosehill Auction Services as well as a silent auction, 50-50 and liquor sales.
Instead of a raffle, the organizers decided to try something new and different for fun. A wheelbarrow loaded with wine was wrapped in a chain and locked away, he said, with people given a chance to buy a key from a set in the hope that the truck would open.
Having generally raised about $20,000 in the past, the organizers were optimistic about being in this ballpark.
“I would be surprised if we weren’t there to the best of our ability,” Engfield said Monday morning, adding that the only large donation was $18,000.
By noon that day, Engfield said the organizers had early estimates of about $50,000 after expenses.
However, while fundraising is a big part of the gala, it’s certainly not the only goal.
“Wanting to have a party,” he said, “is to give a report back to the community—what we’ve been doing, what we’re spending money on.” “This is the important thing, is to inform the community.”
In partnership with Sundre Hospital Auxiliary, the commission helped cover the costs of modernizing the facility with new equipment. Over the past three or so years, Engfield said the collaborative effort has yielded more than $300,000 for equipment.
Having successfully completed the installation of the new heart monitors and launched the eSIM lab, he said the committee had already set its sights on the next target — a portable X-ray machine that would be a major upgrade to the stationary unit.
“This is about a $200,000 project,” he said.
Fully aware of how financially challenging the past few years have been for many people and companies, Ingeveld also expressed his gratitude to those who didn’t hesitate to dig a little deeper.
“When you talk to some merchants,” he said, “it’s the sixth, seventh, and eighth time someone comes looking for a gift.” “So, it’s really amazing how generous people are in the community even after they’ve been beaten so many times.”
The lofty, far-reaching goal continues to lay the proverbial foundation for a brand-new hospital and healthcare campus.
“The new hospital is still off the books,” he said, adding with a smile, “I can retire after that.”
Hospital Futures, through the Sundre Health Professionals Attraction and Retention Commission, is also allocating funds for two healthcare-related scholarships. The Joanne Overguard Memorial Scholarship is a $1,000 award for students who are specifically pursuing a path as a registered nurse. The other scholarship, also worth $1,000, is for students interested in general healthcare fields.
Ultimately, he said, the goal is to encourage and empower local individuals interested in pursuing a career in health care to return to their rural roots to practice.