Published on www.sjlc.ca/ news Monday, 2 May, 2016

It’s called Stedman Community Hospice but for Elaine Schelhas it will always be the house of angels.

“Make that the awesome house of angels,” Schelhas said Sunday prior to the annual Hike for Hospice. “They don’t have volunteers or staff here.

“They have angels – people who help you get through the most difficult times.”

It was one staff member in particular – Sandee McGahey – whose compassion and empathy will remain with Schelhas forever.

“My husband, Don, was only in the hospice for a couple of days,” Schelhas said. “I remember the night when we knew that he was going to pass and Sandee told me that I could be here or go home – it was my choice.

“I went home but felt compelled to come back and, when I did, when I came into his room there was Sandee, holding his hand.”

Don died in July of 2013. He was 63.

“I’m just so grateful to her and everyone at the hospice for what they did for me and my family and that Sandee was there with me when Don passed,” Schelhas said, adding that the staff were also there back in 2008 when her sister, Carolyn Burnett, received her end-of-life care at the hospice.

Schelhas was one of many people to participate in the 12th annual Stedman Community Hike for Hospice on Sunday despite the cool, damp weather. When Schelhas arrived for Sunday’s hike, one of the first people she met was McGahey. They hugged and shared a moment just like the many other families who participated in the hike.

The event raises money to support the many programs and services offered by the hospice, including an outreach program that provides end-of-life care to people in their homes. The hospice also provides educational and bereavement programs.

Organizers were thrilled to report that the hike raised $281,094, exceeding its fundraising goal of $280,000.

Although the weather was cloudy at the beginning of the walk, the parking lot at St. Joseph’s Lifecare Centre was bright as walkers wore the yellow T-shirts that are synonymous with the event. Many families participated, including Evan’s Army – family members and friends of Evan Leversage, the little boy whose battle with cancer brought together a community.

Evan, who was terminally ill with an inoperable brain tumour, inspired thousands to celebrate an early Christmas in St. George last October. Evan died on Dec. 6 at the hospice and his family has spoken about how the staff restore hope to those in despair.

Everyone participating in the hike had a story, including David Elkin.

Elkin, 82, is a volunteer with the hospice day program, as well as the men’s bereavement program.

His daughter, Tara, who had been undergoing months of cancer treatment, received her end-of-life care at the hospice.

“She was born and raised in Brantford but was living out of town when she got sick,” Elkin said. “She was getting treatment and I used to go visit her and help out when I could.”

I tried to remain hopeful that she would beat the cancer but she looked at me and told me that her time was coming. I checked into it and they said the hospice is for people of Brantford and Brant County and their families and, because she was born and raised here, she could come to the hospice.”

Elkin still remembers the day she arrived.

“She was dropped off at the hospice and then her husband came to get me so that we could go visit her together. I’ll never forget it.

“When we got here, she was all settled in and when we walked into her room, she looked up, smiled, gave us a thumbs up and said ‘I’m home.’”

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