Thunder Bay

Fort Frances, Ont. group helps cover costs of accessing health care

With the closest major hospitals a four-hour drive away, a volunteer-based charity in Fort Frances, Ont. is helping residents who have to travel for medical care. 

Community Chest helps patients needing organ transplants, cancer treatment, neonatal care

Joelle Blanc is a volunteer with the Fort Frances Community Chest. (Matt Vis/CBC)

With the closest major hospitals a four-hour drive away, a charity in Fort Frances, Ont. is helping residents who have to travel for medical care.   

The Fort Frances Community Chest, a volunteer-run initiative, raises money to help cover costs for people from the town who must head elsewhere for hospital visits, often with their families for extended stays.

Volunteer Joelle Blanc said the cause dates back more than two decades, when a fundraising dinner was held for a family in need. Afterwards, the family returned a portion of the money they didn't need and it blossomed into something bigger.

'This town needed something to help people'

"We knew that this town needed something to help people out just because we're so small," Blanc said.

"We're quite a ways away from a large community. You're talking a four-hour drive either way - east or west. They definitely have to travel quite some way and then stay there for a long period of time."

Blanc said the organization has helped support three organ transplant patients, countless cancer patients as well as a number of premature births requiring stays in the neonatal intensive care units.

"When you're talking not being able to care for premature babies, that happens all the time," she said. "Sometimes, even small operations and surgeries can't be done here."

Community is 'extremely generous'

There's never a good time for a medical emergency...but there's a group in Fort Frances that helps out people with their unexpected medical costs...we'll hear about the Fort Frances Community Chest. 6:38

The community chest, which covers an area spanning from Mine Centre to the east and Rainy River to the west, gives out about $40,000 per year depending on need through in memoriam donations and small group efforts with activities like fish fries.

The community has been "extremely generous," Blanc said, pointing to the town's population of about 8,000 people.

The Town of Fort Frances helps out, handling their finances along with writing cheques and issuing tax receipts.

"It's something that, if they didn't do this for us, we couldn't do it," Blanc said. "You can't do that without our community support."

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