The Pattison family creates their own swim in support of Hospice—and you can, too!

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The annual Swim for Hospice fundraiser is essential to Hospice Huntsville’s work of providing end-of-life care to individuals in the community. It was created by Joy Jarvis eight years ago, and a new component was added in more recent years: Create Your Own Swim, a summer-long fundraiser where you choose the location, determine your distance, and set your monetary goal.

Individuals or groups can swim in a pool, river, or lake to raise money for Hospice Huntsville through online fundraising, cash and cheques.

Hospice Huntsville only receives 40 per cent of their funding through the government and they rely on fundraisers like Create Your Own Swim to make up the other 60 per cent. It costs an average of $652,000 annually to keep Hospice Huntsville running.

“It’s not only about raising awareness of services but our fundraisers like Create Your Own Swim raise much-needed funds to keep the hospice going,” said Melissa Polischuk, Fund Development & Public Relations Coordinator for Hospice Huntsville. “We’ve been very lucky and have such a generous community so we are thankful for everything they have done.”

The Algonquin Grace residential hospice opened in January 2012 and has a full staff and houses five beds for patients. Hospice Huntsville also provides grief support services to both patients and their families.

“It’s such a small community that we are a part of and one way or another people here will be affected by hospice services. Whether it’s family or friends, you will know someone that needs us,” said Polischuk.

Alley Szukalski (Pattison) and her family have been participating in Create Your Own Swim for three years and make it part of their family reunion each August.

Two of the Pattison family members passed through Hospice Huntsville’s Algonquin Grace residential building so it holds a special place in everyone’s hearts.

“Both my mum and my uncle passed through Algonquin Grace,” said Szukalski. “The PSW’s, nurses, admin staff, everyone were all absolutely incredible and the amount of care they received as patients amazed us. They also took care of us family members so we could just enjoy our time with our loved ones.”

Alley Szukalski's mom Gwynne Fischer Haras (left) was a resident of hospice and died from cancer in 2015. Her aunt Wendy Hollywood (centre) also died from cancer in 2010, as did her uncle Wayne Gonder (right), who was a resident of hospice in 2012 (supplied)

Alley Szukalski’s mom Gwynne Fischer Haras (left) was a resident of hospice and died from cancer in 2015. Her aunt Wendy Hollywood (centre) also died from cancer in 2010, as did her uncle Wayne Gonder (right), who was a resident of hospice in 2012 (supplied)

It was these experiences that inspired the Pattison family to get involved with supporting Hospice Huntsville to make sure they stay a part of the Huntsville community long term.

Some members swim a full one kilometre, some spend the time on kayaks and paddle boards, and the rest are on shore as the cheering squad.

In 2018 they raised a total of $1,510 and this year they hope to raise even more.

“You don’t realize how essential end-of-life care is until you’re faced with the difficulty of it,” said Szukalski. “The end of life deserves as much beauty, care and respect as the beginning. That is what Huntsville hospice gave to my family, they were our saving grace.”

The Create Your Own Swim fundraiser is on until September 3, 2019 and is still accepting participants and donations. Learn more here.

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