SUNDRE — After being unable to host its successful annual gala for the second year in a row as a result of COVID-19 complications, the Sundre Hospital Futures Committee organized a virtual silent auction.
When the pandemic prompted widespread restrictions in 2020, organizers had initially hoped simply to postpone the gala until everything started opening up again, said Gerald Ingeveld, committee chair.
But as the situation progressed, it became clear that wouldn’t be possible for some time, and by then it was too late to scramble together plans for an online silent auction. So, there was neither a gala or a silent auction in 2020.
“We didn’t do anything — we were waiting,” Ingeveld said recently during an interview.
Fast forwarding to 2021, he said the committee hung onto the hope that the gala could once again be held in person as the province opened up for the summer.
But as the fundraiser is intended as a fall event in mid-November, they decided to wait a little longer.
“And then of course we got the next round of COVID, and that was that,” he said. “We kind of held off to the the last minute. (But) it was just going to be too difficult with the restrictions and reduced numbers in the community centre.”
So began the effort to come up with an alternate approach, which led to the online silent auction that was held over the course of the first two weeks in December. The fundraiser ended up bringing in about $12,000, he said.
“That was pretty darn good, considering we’re not in the best economic times with COVID and everything,” he said, adding the local business community “came through very generously to donate items.”
People also seemed to enthusiastically support the silent auction, he said.
“The auction went on for two weeks, but the last 20 minutes was the busiest part of the auction,” he said, adding there were some last-minute bidding competitions.
“The bidding was good. We got good prices for everything that was bid on. And it was kind of fun to have," he said.
The last gala that was held in 2019 prior to the pandemic with a sold-out crowd, had raised about $40,000.
But that was due to the nature of being able to host an in-person event that also featured additional fundraisers such as a live auction on top of a silent auction as well as 50-50 tickets and a raffle draw for a trip, he said.
And despite the difficult circumstances, the committee has been able to continue its efforts and purchased more than $150,000 worth of much-needed hospital equipment.
Additionally, the brand new eSIM lab — a modern health professions training centre — will this year be opening in a renovated space in the former town hall building that’s connected to the adjoining Sundre Fire Hall, he said.
In a newsletter for the committee’s donors and volunteers, Dr. Verna Yiu, Alberta Health Services president and chief executive officer, called the past couple of years “a remarkable time in the history of civilization” with the pandemic’s impact reverberating around the world and touching everyone’s lives.
Health-care professionals have faced one challenge after another as they endured the ebbs and flows of each new wave, she said, adding the one constant has been support from community, volunteers and partners.
“Alberta Health Services is grateful for the continued efforts of the Sundre Hospital Futures to elevate healthcare in your community. Whether it be your support for capital equipment like the new space labs or your continued work to ensure our long-term care centre is a welcoming space for residents, you continue to make a difference in patient and family-centred care in Sundre," she wrote.
She also expressed gratitude for the committee’s efforts toward supporting education and development of new health-care workers, whether through providing scholarships, educational opportunities, or simply by finding other ways to thank them by boosting their spirits with care packages and kind words.
“While we are not able to celebrate your gala in person, I am hopeful for a future where we can once again gather together,” she wrote.
Both Mayor Richard Warnock as well as Mountain View County reeve Angela Aalbers also praised all of those involved in supporting the committee’s tireless efforts.
“It is such a great cause to help our Sundre hospital get much needed new equipment,” wrote Warnock.
“It is sad that we can’t all get together in person this year for the legacy gala, but your thoughtful donations will still make a great community impact and serve a very noble cause,” wrote Aalbers.
Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA Jason Nixon also recognized the contributions of volunteers as well as staff and said the community is fortunate to have among the finest hospitals in the province.