The Bath Lions Club set an ambitious fundraising goal when it launched its "Walk in the Park" fundraising drive supporting the Ronald McDonald House Charities' $24-million project to build a new facility in Halifax.
The Lions Club met its goal. Then it met it again. Then again. And, they'll likely meet it one more time before they complete the counting.
Thanks to the generosity of supporters from the Upper St. John River Valley and beyond, said Bath Lions Club member and event organizer Gerald Sullivan, the Walk in the Park, which set out to raise $5,000, pushed $20,000 when the campaign ended at 4 p.m., Sunday, May 16.
Sullivan said he didn't keep an accurate count, but more than 100 people showed up to the Bath Lions Park on a warm sunny Sunday to walk the track and support the important cause. More importantly, he added, residents from the region opened their hearts and wallets to donate to the campaign from the time the Bath Lions launched it in early April.
Sullivan said local support for the effort was not a surprise, but the level of support proved heartwarming and will go a long way towards making the Bath Lions Clubs N1 District's goal of $50,000 a reality.
He said several of the district's approximately 80 Lions Clubs also held fundraisers to help reach the district goal. In addition, Sullivan said, Lions International committed to matching the district's contributions up to $50,000.
As he prepared to close up Sunday's event in Bath, Sullivan proudly stated the combined Lions Clubs' efforts would likely deliver more than $100,000 to Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Joining Sullivan at Bath Lions Park on Sunday to set up and greet walkers were fellow club members, volunteers, and two local teenagers with first-hand knowledge of the essential services provided by Ronald McDonald House in Halifax.
Garrett Oakes and Drew Kilcollins, students at Carleton North High School in Florenceville-Bristol, spent many weeks at the Ronald McDonald House as they underwent treatment for serious illnesses at the IWK Children's Hospital. Both explained how the house provided positive memories in a challenging time for themselves and their respective families. Once they heard about the Bath Lions fundraiser, they and the families offered immediate support.
Sullivan said the aging Ronald McDonald House in Halifax no longer meets current demand as families travel from across Maritimes for children to undergo medical treatment at the IWK.
He said Ronald McDonald House (RMHC Atlantic) supports 600 families annually, with 42 per cent of those families coming from New Brunswick, including many, like Drew and Garrett, from Carleton County.
Even then, Sullivan noted, it must turn away almost 400 more families in need because of lack of space.
"This new modern facility will allow RMH to support an additional 600 families and alleviate a financial burden of $3.6 million," he said when announcing the campaign's launch in April.
Sullivan said support for the campaign came in many levels of contributions and from a variety of sources.
He pointed to the contributions of northern Carleton County schools, noting the Bath Community, Bristol Elementary, Florenceville Elementary, Florenceville Middle, Centreville Community, and Carleton North High schools combined raised $5,500.
"These schools planned a large variety of activities to have fun raising money for RMHCharties," he said.
Sullivan said the Walk in the Park proved a great way to spend a beautiful afternoon. Not only did the event raise thousands of dollars for an important cause, he said, but it also introduced the Bath Lions Club Park, which sits next to the Bath Lions Hall, to people who didn't know it existed.
"This fundraiser demonstrates the strength of the people from small rural communities to come together to help one another," Sullivan said. "They realize there are a large number of families from our local area who have used and continue to use the RMH and are more than willing to support them. The Bath Lions Club is proud to serve in this generous community."
Sullivan said the Lions Clubs would calculate its total contribution to the project soon.
Meanwhile, RMHC Atlantic plans to start construction this summer. If all goes according to plan, RMH intends to open the house in 2022, its 40th anniversary.
Sullivan looks forward to seeing the new modern Ronald McDonald House in Halifax, which, he noted, will sit conveniently across from the IWK Hospital.
Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun