Local Masons raise $32,000 for dementia programs at Kingston hospital

Ian Troyer (centre) presents a cheque to staff at Kingston Health Sciences Centre, on behalf of the Masonic Association of Frontenac District. Photo by Dylan Chenier/Kingstonist.

Representatives from Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) were in a celebratory mood Wednesday afternoon, as members of the Masonic Association of Frontenac District presented officials with a cheque for $32,000 as part of the Mason’s 2023 district fundraising project. During the presentation on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023, Ian Troyer, Past District Deputy Grand Master for the local Masonic Association, described the “group effort” that allowed the organization to raise such a significant amount of money for the hospital. 

“It really was a group effort for all of Frontenac district, our 14 lodges, and about 600 masons across our district,” Troyer said. “Through the year-and-a-half that we’ve been doing this, we were trying to find a district project that we [could] really get behind and [would] resonate with our membership, and this really fit the bill.”

The money will be used to fund renovations to the hospital’s Burr 4 Mental Health Inpatient Unit, in order to support patients dealing with dementia and, according to the Past Grand Master, the cause was an easy one for local Masons to get behind.

“We could probably name 20 or 25 of our close brethren we’ve known for years, [who] are suffering in varying degrees [with] dementia… I think those are some of the things that resonated; when you have a personal connection, and you can start to tell a story,” he said. 

Troyer went on to add that members would often share stories at fundraising events of loved ones living with dementia, noting, “that was [what lead] to the momentum; the personal stories and the personal motivations.” 

According to Janet Obre, a Nurse Practitioner in inpatient psychiatry, the $32,000 will be used to improve care rooms for patients suffering from dementia: “Our rooms are not set up for this population currently… This [money] will allow us to put lighting in so people aren’t falling at night, different colours so that people can navigate their rooms better… it will improve quality of life.”

While staff had hoped to raise enough money to renovate two rooms, the Nurse Practitioner confirmed the $32,000 will be able to support up to four rooms at the hospital. 

“We are very passionate about improving the lives of our patients here, and this will really go a long way,” Obre noted. “

When you come into a hospital, especially when you’re affected by dementia, it’s really challenging when you have a hard time understanding where you are, [because] your memories are so impaired. It’s difficult on the families, [it’s] such a hard transition and it causes people to have more problems… [This donation] is very touching and it will change a lot of people’s lives.” 

In terms of how this fundraiser came about, Troyer noted his organization was looking for a local case to support as part of the Mason’s district project, which is when he first connected with Obre through the University Hospitals Kingston Foundation (UHKF)— KHSC’s main fundraising arm. “I reached out to UHKF, kind of looking for a charitable effort, to [support] for our district, as we were coming out of the pandemic,” he said. 

After connecting with Bill Leacy, Director of Leadership, Giving, and Campaigns for UHKF, Troyer became aware of the need for additional support for the Burr 4 ward, due to gaps in government funding.

“[Hospital staff] started to paint a picture for us… of what our funding could go towards. So, that was really kind of the genesis of how everything evolved,” said Troyer. 

According to Obre, the need for additional funding was identified through recommendations from Health Quality Ontario (HQO).

“On our side, the initiative started because we were doing quality improvements based on the [HQO] indicators for people with dementia in hospitals. One of the quality indicators is to have an environment where people with dementia can thrive. So, we were hoping to make some changes with our environment, but without private funding, it’s limited for us to be able to do that,” she said. 

“We were luckily matched at the right time, where we had an initiative that we wanted to accomplish, and [the Masons] were generous enough, with their time and resources, to fill that for us,” the Nurse Practitioner remarked on the positive working relationship between KHSC staff, the Masons, and officials with UHKF, “

After an initial donation of $12,000 was made to KHSC back in January, the Masons were able to raise an additional $20,000 through a concerted fundraising effort.

“We had some big cheques from individual [Masons], big cheques from individual lodges, and we started to realize we really had something going on…. Typically, a district project in our Masonic milieux would raise about $10,000, and in a year-and-a-half coming out of the pandemic with all kinds of momentum… [$32,000] was our result. We really exceeded all of [our] expectations, that’s for sure,” remarked Troyer. 

Not only will the money from the Masonic Association support those currently being treated at KHSC, but Obre also noted the money will go a long way to improve quality of care overall, as Kingston’s aging population will eventually lead to more people living with dementia locally.

“Our population is getting older, particularly in Kingston, [as] we have an older population than most cities in Ontario, and we’re seeing a greater influx of patients coming in with dementia and associated behaviours and concerns. So, this is going to not only help out today, but it’s really going to help us improve quality of care over the next number of years,” she said. 

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