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Tessa describes her Mom, Cathy, as extremely stubborn, savvy, smart and a perfectionist. She was a huge Pittsburgh Steelers fan. “There wasn’t much she couldn’t do…she was an artist, baker, and handy with power tools.”

“She was an avid walker. She would walk three hours every day from Innerkip side road and loop back.” The route for the Sakura House’s annual Hike for Hospice holds extra significance for Tessa. Why? The pathway along Roth Park was her part of her Mom’s daily walking routine. She loved that area.

Tessa continues to hike in her Mom’s footsteps because, “it’s my way of helping out. I want to keep Sakura open. I want everyone to have the peace my Mother and I had at the end.”

Tessa not only hikes, she has also actively been involved in the planning of the Hike since the year her Mom died on April 13, 2012.

Cathy died at only 52 years old from colon cancer. The summer before she was diagnosed, she had extreme abdominal pain. Tessa said she was a “very tough and stubborn woman and it had to be pretty dire before she would go see a doctor for anything.”

It would be five months and 10 days from Cathy’s diagnosis to her death. She had mentioned Sakura House early during her diagnosis and treatment so when her kidneys started to fail after chemotherapy and other treatments, she mentioned it again. Tessa said her Mom didn’t want to die in the hospital. When it was time to go to Sakura House, she had decided to “walk in” but Tessa had to convince her to get “rolled in” instead.

She would spend 13 hours at Sakura House. Tessa remembers how important it was for her Mom to see one of their cats. It had been two weeks since she had been home. “Our cat was the first cat in Sakura,” Tessa recalls.

Tessa wasn’t able to get her Mom on a plane to Scotland before she died. It had been Cathy’s dream to tour the entire country and had been saving for several months already. Tessa was ready to take her after her Mom was diagnosed, but, the doctors discouraged it, as Cathy was too sick to travel.

Three years after her Mom died, Tessa got on the plane to Scotland to honour her Mom. She took her Mom’s ashes to two of the places her Mom had always wanted to go – Loch Ness and Arthur’s Seat. Her remaining ashes are buried here in Woodstock. Tessa’s arm carries the GPS locations of these three special locations.

Tessa continues to keep her Mom’s spirit alive by baking her famous banana bread as a fundraiser for the Hike for Hospice. The recipe is well-guarded but for $5.00 per loaf, Tessa’s family, friends and colleagues are given access to Cathy’s famous treat. (Now if only Tessa would sell Cathy’s famous Scottish Shortbread too?!)

Tessa, thank you for continuing to volunteer on our Hike for Hospice Committee and for helping raise essential donations for Sakura House, in honour of your Mom, Cathy Tattersall.
You are an inspiration to all of us and we are forever grateful.



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A person’s wallet can say a lot about someone. Stuffed with credit cards, rewards cards and old receipts of course. But, often, hidden gems like photos are found within the layers of paper and plastic of everyday life.

Meet Laura. Teacher, Mom, Hiker and Volunteer.

On a beautiful sunny day in July, Laura Poirier reached into her wallet and pulled out three high-school photos of her son Mitch. He is handsome, has curly dark hair and a bright smile. His whole life ahead of him. It would only be months after the last photograph was taken that Mitch would start experiencing severe symptoms of colon cancer. It also began a long journey of treatments in both Canada and in the USA, major surgery, a remission, and a year of studying science at Wilfried Laurier University.

His family and friends were right next to him through all of it. And, the community was there for him too, raising significant funds to pay for specialized treatment in Arizona.

It has been 8 years since Mitch died at Sakura House at only 20 years old. Every year, Laura continues to hike and raise funds in honour of Mitch as part of the team “Mitch’s Journey”. The team has gotten smaller over the years but Laura remains compelled to hike, even if it is just herself and a family member or friend because: “I believe in it and I understand Sakura’s value in a big way.”

Remembering back to the 20 hours they spent at Sakura House with Mitch, Laura said she “couldn’t get over how beautiful Sakura House was. They looked after needs we didn’t even knew we had. The staff and volunteers have the hugest hearts and they just know what to say.”

Laura also began volunteering as a Personal Care Assistant at Sakura House six months after Mitch died and has never stopped. “I desperately wanted to volunteer. I wasn’t worried about not being able to do it. I feel like it was part of my healing therapy. It offers something you can’t get anywhere else. I get more than I give.”

While we are grateful that we were there for Mitch, Laura and their family when they needed us, we are forever grateful to Laura for her commitment as a hiker and volunteer. Thank you Laura for for sharing your family’s story with us, and for continuing to care for our community.

If you would like to hike with us on September 21st at our Hike for Hospice, please register or donate here:


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Kelly Maloney remembers meeting Louise for the first time two years ago – “she was spunky, intelligent and had a sparkling light behind her eyes.” Louise was living in an apartment geared towards individuals with disabilities. Louise is deaf and has cerebral palsy. Louise’s sister Faith is her primary caregiver, managing her day-to-day living, and she also has an amazing extended family that supports her.

Kelly is a Recreationist in the Adult Day Program at VON Oxford, but also worked one-on-one with Louise through the VON Passport Program; providing additional support for Louise once a week. At that time, Louise could perform activities of daily living, do her own laundry and would get on the bus to go swimming at the YMCA.

Around May 2017, everything changed. They don’t know what happened, but all of a sudden Louise couldn’t do anything for herself. The light in her eyes went away. She refused to eat, couldn’t perform simple tasks, and lost weight. Louise was hospitalized and they had numerous tests done. Everything came back normal.

Her sister Faith, took her into her home, cared for her around-the-clock and made every attempt to make her well again but she wasn’t coming out of it. At one point, they thought they were going to lose her completely. After months of little progress, it was the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) that recommended Louise participate in the Adult Day Program at VON Oxford.

Faith began to take Louise to the Ingersoll Adult Day program three days a week because Kelly worked out of that location primarily. She then started coming to the Woodstock location every Friday as well.

Kelly’s goal for Louise was to encourage independence. It meant structured activities and they worked on improving and strengthening all of her cognitive, social, emotional and physical functions “We would put a spoon in her hand as a starting point,” says Kelly.

Kelly believes that “structure was one of Louise’s main tools in her healing.” It took almost a year of the Adult Day program to see Louise’s light come back. She’s now back in her apartment and is doing her own laundry and dishes again. “She used to sit on the edge of the group and now she sits in the middle,” says Kelly. “Her spunk is back. Everybody in the group noticed the differences.”

“This is why I believe so strongly in care-giving and in recreation. Louise was able to find her independence again,” says Kelly. Kelly says that “We are just one piece of her healing – a great piece. But, it was Faith who never gave up on Louise. She worked hard and was her best advocate.”

Faith says “she can’t say enough about how VON staff assessed her needs and met her right where she was and continued to adapt to her changes. The whole team worked together incredibly well, always upbeat and positive.”


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Audrey and her husband Don decided to move from their family farm after his cancer diagnoses into an apartment in Tavistock in October 2012 and felt they also needed help from the Meals on Wheels Program.  Audrey had been recently diagnosed with colitis and this caused her to be very weak, making cooking very difficult. For two years, they both received two hot meals a week until Don’s passing in 2014.  Audrey has continued with the program as she is unable to stand for any length of time over a stove and prepare meals; any standing causes pain and discomfort for her.

Audrey shared that the meals “make a big difference. I can’t even sit on a walker my legs are too weak. I can’t cook any meals for myself, if there were meals 7 days a week I would take them. The volunteers delivering the meals are great, everyone knows each other. I really enjoy seeing them. They are consistent and always here on time. It is nice that the meals are always hot and ready to eat. If anyone asks I tell them they are a good size, I get two meals out of them. I have even recommended them to my own sister.”

Audrey has one child, her daughter Julie, who is her caregiver.  “As a caregiver it makes life easier to know that my mom is getting a three course homemade meal and not eating a TV dinner. It gives me relief in knowing she has had lunch and I don’t have to worry. Tavistock is lucky to have the Meals on Wheels Program; many seniors are staying in their own homes longer instead of nursing homes.  This program also helps widows and individuals living on their own.   If Tavistock didn’t have the Meals on Wheels Program I don’t know what I would do.  You can’t ask for friendlier service and Tavistock is a growing community and this program is essential.”


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Mike Ellah first joined the Ingersoll Day Program approximately 18 years ago as a client, one year after a burst aneurysm changed his life. He was on his way to work one day when he “felt as though fingers were running through his hair downward”. His next memory was waking up at University Hospital in London. Not expected to recover, Mike’s family was told that he wouldn’t live and that they should consider organ donation. Miraculously Mike survived but had a long road ahead; during his one-month stay Mike experienced difficulty recognizing his kids, had memory loss and personality changes, after which he spent 3 months at Parkwood Institute in London completing the rehab program. Thankfully Mike made remarkable progress!

One year later, Mike’s (then) wife Margaret heard about the Ingersoll Adult Day Program through St. Paul’s Church; Mike started attending the program 2 days a week to provide respite and engage him in social activities, and he has been with the program ever since. Slowly Mike transitioned from being a client to becoming a volunteer by helping out a bit here and there. He says “I’m so lucky!” and that he loves giving back and being a part of the program.

Ingersoll ADP recreationist, Kelly Maloney says “Mike is the perfect volunteer”. “When he is not here we miss him.”  Mike never needs to be asked to help out. While volunteering Mike anticipates a need and jumps in – whether he is running an activity such as the Coffee News or assisting in place of a staff member who is needed to support a client’s needs, Mike works fluidly with the staff…and always with a smile and sometimes even a song and dance. “Mike brings energy and helps to make the program fun for our clients” says an ADP staff member. Thoughtful, considerate and a true part of the team, this program wouldn’t be the same without you Mike!

Accreditation Canada is an independent, not-for-profit organization that consults with experts to develop health care standards based on best practices. They accredit a wide range of health care and social services providers, including hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, clinics, and community health programs. Accreditation Canada has been helping providers improve health care quality and safety for more than 55 years.

Copyright by VON Oxford 2018. All rights reserved.