Hospice P.E.I. fundraiser harnesses power of lone walkers, bikers

Individual bikers and walkers combined efforts — despite COVID-19 restrictions — to raise more money for Hospice P.E.I. than the group's fundraiser produced last year, when there weren't restrictions.

‘As usual, the generosity of our Islanders came out’

Leanne Butler carried 14 photos on her walks to represent loved ones of people who gave her donations for Hospice P.E.I. (Submitted by Leanne Butler)

With 14 pictures in her pocket, Leanne Butler walked and walked — carrying with her 14 different stories of love, loss and memories. 

"It was special because I got to learn about people I didn't know," said Butler, who walked a total of 120 kilometres for The Hike and Bike for Hospice P.E.I. fundraiser.

Despite the COVID-19 restrictions, Hospice P.E.I. managed to raise $17,850 with the help of nearly 100 participants. Last year, they raised just $3,000.

"We learned a lot and we'll probably continue to do virtual in the future because it worked so well," said Nancymarie Arsenault, the executive director of Hospice P.E.I.

It did help with the COVID calories.— Leanne Butler

"We were very, very surprised and pleased and grateful and honoured." 

Hiking for a loved one

For over a decade, Hospice P.E.I. has been participating in the National Hike for Hospice — a one-day event. But because of the social distancing regulations, this year they decided to ask people to pick any day between May 22 and June 14 and walk, bike, or hike five kilometres in memory of a loved one. 

Leanne Butler and her father Steve Parsons. (Submitted by Leanne Butler)

Butler decided to do something a little different. Instead of walking five kilometres on just one day, she walked five kilometres every day for 24 days. 

"It did help with the COVID calories," she laughed. 

With a virtual team by her side and only one rainy walk, Butler raised $415.

'Very special people'

"When they made a donation towards my team, they sent me a picture of their loved one that they wanted to sponsor or have the memory of carried along," Butler said.

"And so I had all the pictures of all the people in my pocket with me each day."

On a personal level, Butler was walking for her dad. 

"I've always looked up to what he did in life and [wanted to] follow his footsteps," she said. "My dad was a member of the RCMP also, the same as I am."

Leanne Butler walked 120 kilometres for the fundraiser, partly in memory of her father Steve. ‘Hospice P.E.I was really good to my family when my father was sick.’ (Submitted by Leanne Butler)

Butler's father Steve died in 2014. 

"He had cancer and that's how he became a person that stayed with Hospice P.E.I. for his last days," said Butler.

"You never know when you're going to need their services and they touch a lot of families … they're very special people."

'The generosity of our Islanders came out'

"The thing about hospice is people are living while they're dying and we're wanting that to be the best possible experience," said Arsenault. "Cause everybody's dying, everybody's going to be dying."

For Butler, it was the organization's attention to detail that made the difference for her dad when he was sick. 

"When my father was there, he liked sweets like desserts and without being asked, every day they put two desserts on his tray just because they knew that that was something that he enjoyed," she said. 

Hospice P.E.I. has been around for 35 years and last year served over 500 families, according to Arsenault. It's a non-profit organization and needs every single dollar they get. 

"A thousand kudos to people who stepped up and participated," said Arsenault.

"In a time where, you know, people were not working and not having income … as usual, the generosity of our Islanders came out."

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