Sunday’s Hike for Hospice Calgary was among more than 100 Canada-wide walks kicking off National Palliative Care Week.
There were high-fives at the finish line, but for many, this walk begins with an emotional story.
“Recently, my grandfather was moved into hospice,” said Calgary Stampeders offensive lineman Ryan Sceviour. “It’s not something anybody wants to go through, but when I’m there, you can kind of forget about it a bit and just spend time with him.”
The annual walk raises money and awareness for hospice services for those preparing for the end of life, and supports families who often require counselling.
The Rosedale Hospice alone sees roughly 90 clients a year. The Sage Centre for grief services welcomes thousands of people annually.
“They’re on this really horrible journey. It’s the hardest time of their life, but we just want to make them feel as though they’re comforted and supported,” said Hospice Calgary executive director Karen McCullagh.
Despite the weekend’s snow, 450 hikers helped raise more than $100,000 to help support the organization’s programs.
In June, Hospice Calgary will launch a new Children’s Grief Centre due to growing demand.
Last year alone, more than 2,200 children, teens and parents reached out for help.
A team of seven counsellors will visit homes, schools and anywhere else they’re needed to help kids experiencing loss.
For Jennifer Monaghan and her son, Rylan, counselling was the first step to finding a new normal.
“In late 2007, we were in a motor vehicle accident. My husband and seven-year-old daughter were killed,” Jennifer said. “I was quite seriously injured.”
“It was a time in our life when everything was in a fog. I didn’t know what to do or help [Rylan].”
WATCH: Learn more about 2018 Hike for Hospice (2018)
Rylan, now 16, was only five at the time of the accident.
“I lost my dad. I didn’t know any better how to deal with that,” He recalled. “I went to camp, hanging out with all those other kids that had kind of been through the same experience I had. Rob from the Stampeders was there, tossing out mini footballs and doing crafts. It was a low time in my life but it helped to see that.”
Retired Calgary Stampeder Rob Cote first volunteered at the hike 11 years ago. He admits he didn’t know much about hospice and palliative care at the beginning, but in the years since, he’s built bonds with many of the kids in the program.
“I tear up inside thinking about it but they can talk about it and continue with their lives in a happy and healthy way.”
While the subject matter may be difficult, the hike will remain a yearly tradition for many Alberta families, including the Monaghans.
“This is our 11th hike,” Jennifer said. “We’ll be back every year to remember our loved ones and know that we’re all together.”