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Sundre's Tree of Hope supports expanded programs

Sundre Palliative Care Association’s annual fundraiser around the corner
SUN Tree of Hope file
A Tree of Hope event from 2018. File photo/MVP Staff

SUNDRE — An organizer of the upcoming Tree of Hope said the annual fundraiser does not have a specific goal this year.  

“With the way COVID has been, we are just going to be grateful for any donations we get,” said Jo-Anne McDonald, adding a target is otherwise usually set at $4,000.   

“People donate throughout the year, but this is our major fundraising campaign,” McDonald recently said during a phone interview.  

The event, which takes place Friday, Dec. 4 starting at 5 p.m. at the traditional location in the parking lot on the north side of the Myron Thompson Health Centre, supports the Sundre Palliative Care Association’s efforts.  

Blue bulbs are lit in memory of loved ones who have passed away, while red bulbs are meant as an expression of hope and support for those who are still with us. People who are inclined to participate are encouraged to pick up and fill out a pledge form, which are available at the local holiday farmers’ markets as well as some businesses in the community, she said.    

“That’s where they can write down the name of their loved one,” she said, adding the names are all read aloud following some songs during the tree lighting ceremony.  

Due to the pandemic, the annual candlelight service traditionally hosted separately and indoors on a Sunday, will this year instead follow right after the tree lighting ceremony, when a minister will offer a prayer before a moment of silence, she said.  

Following a lengthy lull in activity due to the pandemic, the association’s volunteers have recently once again been ramping up their efforts to provide palliative care support in the community as well as the hospital, McDonald said.  

Additionally, the association continues to deliver public education opportunities through its Let’s Talk About sessions. These cover a variety of topics pertaining to palliative care issues, from legal perspectives such as preparing wills, personal directives and power of attorney, to more personal and spiritual matters such as processing and managing grief, she said.    

That included offering financial assistance to one of the association’s volunteers to take a death doula course, which provides specialized training that helps to support not only someone who is enduring an end-of-life journey, but also their families as well, she said. Doula is a Greek word for servant or helper.  

“We’ve also started focusing on helping grieving kids as well,” she said, adding a volunteer with specialized training has been incorporated into the association’s available programs.  

“Children look at grief in their own way,” she said, adding youth can also benefit from learning to cope with and understand not only the loss of a close relative such as cherished grandparent, but even a beloved family pet.  

The association, she added, has undergone a big shift towards becoming more involved in providing grief support while maintaining support for palliative care. 

“We’ve had a good number of people coming out and taking the grief support classes that we’ve been offering.” 

Meanwhile, she said the association remains committed to promoting palliative care end-of-life training for anyone who wants to volunteer at the hospital.  

“Our group helps sponsor that if there’s a fee.”  

Volunteers are also still providing telephone friendly visits for anyone who is experiencing isolation under lockdown, she said.  

Furthermore, she added the association decided to get involved in the effort to develop the new community memory park, which will resume in the spring.   

“We donated a significant amount of money to that,” she said.   

Another long-term goal remains working to introduce a type of palliative care suite at the Sundre Seniors Supportive Living centre, and to provide continual funding to support it once established, she said, adding further upgrades to the palliative care room at the hospital are also always on the radar. 

While the Tree of Hope is the organization’s main campaign to raise the funds that facilitate all of these efforts and more, a bin was also placed at Sundre Bottle Depot along the Bergen Road for people who want to donate their money-back recyclables. Additionally, an account was set up at My Sister’s Closet in the Suds and Sundries laundromat as another option for people who want to donate consigned clothes, she said.   

Naturally, the association is always receptive to new members, and anyone who wants to join is encouraged to contact Diana Kleinloog either by phone at 403-335-8481, or email at