Manitoba

Katie Cares opens home for hospital patients' families in Winkler, Manitoba

The month of May marks four years since 15-year-old Kaitlyn Reimer died of cancer, but her dream is living on in her home community in Manitoba.

$600K home is legacy of 15-year-old Kaitlyn Reimer, who died of cancer in 2012

The month of May marks four years since 15-year-old Kaitlyn Reimer died of cancer, but her dream is living on in her home community in Manitoba.

A $600,000 home for families with loved ones in hospital is opening next to the Boundary Trails Health Centre, west of Winkler, Man., in June. The home, called Katie's Cottage, is being created by Katie Cares, a charity Reimer started while she was sick.

Ruth Reimer, Kaitlyn's mother, said all money and supplies, including the acre of land where the house was built, were donated.

"Katie has given us such a clear road map," Reimer said.

"It's not an extravagant house, but it is a very comfortable home. The colours are warm. The place is soft. When I walk in there, I feel my daughter."

The home will include eight bedrooms and bathrooms, a kitchen, a dining area and a private room where families can meet to discuss their loved one's condition.

"[Katie] wanted it to be a home away from home, so that when families are coming to Boundary Trails hospital, they have a soft place to land.… They can come in, find a soft couch and enjoy the fireplace," Reimer said.

"We plan to have beautiful flower gardens on the yard to be enjoyed, or the library inside. Kaitlyn loved to read, so we made sure that there was a reading room, a library filled with books for young and old."

Katie Cares bags

Kaitlyn's legacy started small, but its impact has always been big for those who have felt it, Reimer said.

"We still carry out her first wish, that kids get a Katie Cares bag when they are admitted [to hospital]," she said.

Children under three get a blanket, tissue, a book and a teddy bear, while children age four to eight get a colouring book, crayons, tissue, a toothbrush, toothpaste and a teddy bear. Older children get much of the same, along with a book of Sudoku puzzles, and kindergarten students coming in for public health immunizations get Beanie Babies.

Katie was motivated to give to hospitalized children following a hospital encounter with a badly beaten child, Reimer said.

"She had never seen anything like this. This child was black and blue from head to toe.… She said, 'I want you to go and buy that little person the most beautiful teddy bear you can find.'"

Reimer said she went to the hospital's gift shop and with the permission of staff, gave the teddy bear to the child.

"And I said, 'Kaitlyn's thinking of you and she loves you.' That child passed away about two days later, but knowing that she was loved."

Reimer said her family and Katie Cares volunteers gave out 382 Beanie Babies and 528 Katie Cares bags in 2015.