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More than $2.3 million raised since 1989 to fund hospital’s needs

Story and photo by Sherri Gallant

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a
friend is “someone attached to another person by
affection or esteem.”

When the Friends of Chinook Regional Hospital
(CRH) society heard that furnishings in the
Intensive Care Unit (ICU) waiting room were
somewhat past their prime, they did exactly what
friends do — they came to the rescue.

New ICU furniture is just one of many projects backed by the Friends, as they are affectionately
referred to around the hospital, and one that’s deeply appreciated.

“Prior to what you see in this lovely room, we definitely had some very old furniture in here,” says
Marci Neher-Schwengler, ICU manager. “There were no couches, just individual chairs made of
wood, which can no longer pass infection prevention and control standards.

“We really do have the sickest of the sick here in the ICU, and families are at the worst moments of
their lives. To provide them with a place that’s comfortable and aesthetically pleasing is wonderful.”

Above the sleek, modern sofa in the waiting room hangs a trio of paintings of Indigenous war shirts.
The installation’s hues match the colours of the new furniture, making the room inviting and
comfortable. The medical-grade couch, chairs and tables cost about $15,000.

The Friends non-profit society operates the Gift Shop at CRH and invests proceeds back into the
hospital and community.

“In the community we award four scholarships (a total of $7,000) to students who volunteer at the
hospital, demonstrate leadership skills, and who are planning to pursue a career in healthcare. Two
go to high school students and two to post-secondary students,” says Richard Camacho, board

Current and future initiatives funded by the Friends include a multi-year project to replace bedside
tables and two-drawer dressers throughout the hospital. That’s welcome news in the ICU, where
bedside tables can’t be used because they don’t fit under the unit’s specialized beds — but the new
ones will.

“We try to pick up on some of the items the hospital might not have otherwise,” says Daniel Erickson,
executive director of the society.

“We just funded the wheelchair shelters that are at both entrances now — 10 new transport
wheelchairs will go inside each shelter — and that’s something the hospital wouldn’t have if there
weren’t organizations like ours.”

Other donations from the Friends include a mock code-cart, sometimes called a crash-cart, for staff
training purposes. It will be equipped exactly as the carts are on the units — with basic airway
equipment, medications, intravenous equipment and more — but will be placed in the simulation lab
where staff-training happens.

As well, revenue from the patient TV service that Friends provides all goes back to the hospital. When
the cafeteria was renovated a couple of years ago, it was Friends who financed the new furniture.

“Since we got started in 1989, we’ve donated more than $2.3 million to the hospital,” adds Erickson.
“We provide volunteer resources with things they wouldn’t get otherwise as well, like the supplies for
the Christmas Stockings project. They have various other things we fund, like a free drink for
volunteers after they work a shift. You wouldn’t think that’s much, but it adds up to 9,000 drinks in a
year. You’d be astonished at the number of hours that volunteers put in at this hospital. An
organization like ours wouldn’t be where it is today without the volunteers.”

Camacho sums up the society’s devotion to volunteer appreciation. “We try to do our best to provide
things for them,” he says.” Volunteer recognition, prizes for Volunteer of the Month. One volunteer
makes a huge difference for everybody else. So we want to make sure they feel appreciated.”

To learn more about the Friends of Chinook Regional Hospital, visit