By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
It is often said that cancer will ultimately play a role in everyone’s life, but on a rainy Thursday afternoon at Hearth Place Cancer Support Centre in Oshawa, this credence was never more evident.
Organizers and supporters at the centre’s 20th anniversary event shared personal stories of their battles with cancer and reflected on how Hearth Place played a pivotal role in providing them and their families the support and resources they required.
Looking ahead to the future, Hearth Place executive director Andrea Shaw announced “Building Hope for the Future”, a $750,000 capital campaign to build a new wing on the centre.
Established in 1997, Hearth Place moved to its current building, constructed by the Durham Region Home Builder Association in 2005, expanding its space from 1,200 sq. ft. to 6,100 sq. ft.
“We were really thrilled and thought the centre would last us a lifetime. Twelve years later we are continually running out of room,” Shaw says.
With the Canadian Cancer Society releasing a study that predicts one in two Canadians will receive a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime, Shaw says there will only be more demand for their services in the near future.
“We are on the cusp of a tsunami of age-related issues. We know there will be an increasing need for our services. Although we have the most extensive programming of any non-funded support service in the region, all done at no cost to our members, we know there is so much more we can do,” she says.
Thanks to $200,000 received from the annual Building Industry for Durham Deeds (BIDD) luncheon, hosted by Durham regional chair Roger Anderson and Tribute Communities co-founder Al Libfeld, Hearth Place was able to purchase the property next to its building at 86 Colborne Street West.
The capital campaign is off to a rousing start with Anderson and Libfeld announcing Hearth Place would be the charity of choice for the BIDD luncheon for the next four years, which almost brought Shaw to tears.
“This is astonishing news. I’m kind of speechless, it’s going to make such a difference. When they started donating to us we were in a deficit situation and we’ve come a long way,” she said.
The addition will provide an extra 2,400 sq. ft. of space, which will include four new rooms for individual counselling, a dedicated space for lymphedema education and assessment, a large paediatric and family support space and a group support room.
“The potential for our new programming will include nutritional support and demonstrations, expressive arts, end of life transitional support (such as legacy and will planning), a day centre, home base for our paediatric summer camp, educational workshops and whole lot of more flexibility,” Shaw says.
Anderson praised the work Hearth Place has been doing for the past two decades.
Diagnosed with cancer himself in 2016, he thanked Shaw and her staff for their personal service to him.
“You really do make Durham Region a better place and anyone who can do that, in my books, is first class,” the regional chair stated. “I want to thank you for all the calls over the past year. It’s appreciated by not only me but my family.”
This admiration was echoed by Whitby-Oshawa MPP Lorne Coe, who revealed he has accessed services at the centre as well.
“You are looking at someone whose parents both died of cancer, and 11 years ago in November I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer,” Coe said. “I know about the support and compassion this organization and its volunteers and staff provide.”
Coe said it wasn’t difficult to find support and services in his community.
“I didn’t have to look very far at all, it was right here in Durham Region. God bless you all.”
After moving to Whitby in November 2015 to become headmaster at Trafalgar Castle School, Leanne Foster says she was perhaps the happiest she’d ever been.
She recalled Hearth Place staff speaking to her students about the work they do with children and families who are going through cancer treatment.
“I thought to myself “this is a good place.”
One month later, Foster’s life was turned upside down when she received a diagnosis of breast cancer.
“I remember feeling overwhelmed and not sure what I was going to do next, seeing I had no friends in Whitby. And then I remembered Hearth Place,” Foster said. “I don’t recall what I said but I remember what the kind woman on the other end of the phone said to me. ‘Come on by, there is someone here for you.’ That’s what happened. Someone was here for me and has always been here for me.”
While her physical and emotional scars have healed and she’s left treatment behind, Foster said, “what I haven’t left behind is my overwhelming gratitude to Hearth Place for what they provided during my time of need.”
Hearth Place also received donations of $125,000 from RE/MAX Jazz Inc.’s WEEMAX Children’s Charities, $29,980 from the Mortgage Centre in Courtice and $3,000 from the
Oshawa Professional Firefighters Association during the event.
Shaw told The Express that about $450,000 has been pledged to the campaign so far.
Oshawa-based Woodland Homes will handle the construction and Shaw is hopeful the project will be completed in about a year’s time.