Representatives from the Kelowna General Hospital Foundation were in Rossland on Monday to present the Better Together campaign, which will raise $8 million for a home-away-from-home for families of patients being treated at the Kelowna hospital.
The facility has been named JoeAnna’s House after Joe and Anna Huber, founders of Prestige Hotels and Resorts. The Huber family initiated the project with a commitment of $1 million in honour of their late parents.
Doug Rankmore, CEO of the Kelowna General Hospital (KGH) Foundation, explained the necessity of building the facility at the Prestige Mountain Resort in Rossland on Monday.
He shared that 25 per cent of overnight cases at KGH are from outside the Central Okanagan, and hotels in Kelowna are not only expensive but in the summer months, there are very few vacancies.
Cops for Kids has been working with social workers at the hospital “to locate affordable short-term accommodations for families in need,” but it’s a challenge when there are no accommodations available.
“It’s been a longstanding problem,” said Rankmore.
There are an average of 1,034 cases per year from Kootenay Boundary at KGH and stays for Kootenay Boundary patients are an average of seven nights long.
Rankmore also shared stories from families who either will benefit from the creation of JoeAnna’s House or would have benefited from a similar facility.
The Dear family from Creston could have used a place like JoeAnna’s House when their son Zacharias was born prematurely. Lisa, Zacharias’ mom, was discharged after two days, but he had to stay in KGH’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for 35 days.
The Palmer family from Penticton travels to KGH and BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver regularly for treatment for their daughter. But while they are able to stay at Ronald McDonald House in Vancouver, Kelowna doesn’t have anything comparable.
Kassi Chernoff from Trail attended the presentation and shared her own story.
She was considered high risk when she was pregnant with her son and had to go to Kelowna to wait to give birth.
“That meant that the last few weeks of my pregnancy I would be away from my home,” she said, tearing up.
Cops for Kids was able to help Chernoff with accommodations, but she said she would have benefited from a place to stay where she could have interacted with other families.
JoeAnna’s House will have 20 units for 20 families and will also have a communal dining area and day use area for moms at NICU.
Construction is expected to start by October 2018 and be completed by the fall of 2019.
“We hope everybody will be able to spend time with each other. Certainly one of the things we’ve heard about Ronald McDonald House or Jeneece Place on the island, the families get a lot of support from each other,” said Rankmore.
Referral to JoeAnna’s house will also be made through social workers at KGH and Cops for Kids is collaborating with the KGH Foundation and Prestige Hotel and Resorts on the project.
Rankmore said priority will be given to families with children in care, but JoeAnna’s House will also be open to the family of other patients at KGH.
“It is open for families travelling for cardiac care and we anticipate that about half the beds, off the start, will be occupied by somebody with a child in care,” he said. “We’ll see when we open the doors, but we should have about 10 beds for other families: trauma, specialized surgery, cardiac surgery.”
Prestige Hotel and Resorts have taken on JoeAnna’s house as their charity of choice, and the Prestige in Rossland will be fundraising toward the campaign.
“We’re going to start with basic fundraising internally, if that’s a bottle drive or if that is with events through Gabriella’s Restaurant, to maybe anything from hosting a ski event to a hockey event,” said Warren Kalawsky, general manager of the Prestige Mountain Resort in Rossland.
The initial $8 million raised through the Better Together campaign will pay for land, construction and initial operation costs, but the KGH Foundation will also need to fund ongoing operation costs at JoeAnna’s House, so Kalawsky said the Prestige’s fundraising efforts will also be ongoing.
For more information, or to donate to JoeAnna’s House, visit kghfoundation.com/joeannas-house.