Heartland Hospice’s May 26 Evening Under the Stars Gala Fundraiser at Grant Hall Hotel celebrated the life of Aylesbury's Ashley Luther and kicked off a $1 million capital campaign.
Heartland Hospice Moose Jaw (HHMJ) is a non-profit that aims to create a dedicated hospice wing at the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s (SHA) Pioneer Lodge. So far, it has achieved Moose Jaw’s first dedicated hospice bed; the finished project will establish two more, along with a separate entrance, a family room with supportive resources, and a sacred space.
The dream of a dedicated wing is significantly closer now, said Sara Bryan, an HHMJ board member.
“This was always our end goal, so we’ve been fundraising with an eye towards that,” Bryan explained. “But because we needed to get everything in alignment with SHA and the Ministry of Health, we were doing things on a smaller scale at the same time.”
Representatives from the SHA and the Ministry of Health spoke at the fundraiser, including Everett Hindley, minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Seniors, and Rural and Remote Health, and Karen Abrey, SHA director of Continuing Care.
HHMJ projects to this point have included important bereavement resources such as grief counselling; care baskets for Pioneer Lodge hospice patients; and the My Wish program, which grants smaller wishes for patients at the end of their lives.
The gala saw the long-anticipated announcement of a $1 million dollar capital campaign that the HHMJ board hopes will see construction at Pioneer Lodge begin this autumn.
With this capital campaign, the organization will now seek major donations.
Conexus Credit Union is one of the first big corporate sponsors. Todd Andries, regional vice-president of agriculture at Conexus, spoke at the event, which included the announcement of Conexus’ $20,000 donation.
“We’re so proud to be one of the first corporate sponsors for the Moose Jaw Heartland Hospice expansion project,” said Andries. “This family-centred project offers a tangible solution to the stressors imposed on residents in and around Moose Jaw with terminally-ill relatives. We are committed to Heartland Hospice’s goal of creating an expanded hospice facility in Moose Jaw and helping alleviate some of the financial pressures faced by families so they can focus on what matters most.”
Another contribution is by Yvette Moore, a well-known Moose Jaw artist and businessperson. Moore will create an original, limited-edition lily print available exclusively for donors of a certain level. The lily was HHMJ founder Arlene Kolosky’s favourite flower, and is used as the non-profit’s logo.
Angela Sereda, HHMJ’s board chair, said the gala fundraiser was first planned for two years ago. Dealing with repeated cancellations was challenging, and overcoming those obstacles made the event especially rewarding.
“It was just a wonderful evening,” she said. “To finally be able to have this event come to fruition and have the Luther family there to celebrate Ashley’s ongoing legacy.”
Ashley Luther, aka Elly Mayday, was an international model who broke ground by working while battling ovarian cancer. She was photographed with surgical scars — including from a hysterectomy — and a bald head after three months of chemotherapy. Luther was a size 14 when she began modelling. She refused the “plus-sized” label that the industry initially assigned her, and was forced to battle online toxicity when her cancer treatments caused dramatic weight loss.
Luther died in 2019 at the age of 30 after her cancer recurred.
“Her story really spoke to me,” Sereda said. “She just inspired me to want to continue with her crusade and her story and her voice on ovarian cancer awareness.”
Over 3,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year, Sereda said during her speech at the gala. Turquoise support ribbons were at each table, and Sereda highlighted the hope offered by the $14 million in current research through Ovarian Cancer Canada.
Contact Heartland Hospice at CapitalCampaign@heartlandhospicemj.ca to receive a donor information package.