How vandals at a St. Albert palliative care facility almost stole Christmas

·2 min read

A palliative care facility in St. Albert met an act of vandalism with a renewed spirit of giving after Christmas trees and memorial plaques were damaged this week.

On Sunday, the St. Albert Sturgeon Hospice Association (SASHA) lit trees on the hillside outside of the the Foyer Lacombe palliative care facility. Community members were invited to tune in online or participate in a drive-by viewing.

"We certainly had tears in our eyes and what a tender gentle moment ... to see all those lights coming on outside the room where my mother died," recalled donor Sharon Ryan, whose mom spent her final days there last summer.

A day or two later, vandals struck — damaging memorial plaques and several trees while stripping lights off others.

But Ryan said what should have felt like a punch in the gut sparked the opposite reaction.

"We just rolled our eyes, and we rolled up our sleeves and we got to work immediately to rebuild those light displays," said Ryan, who has also founded an advocacy group for seniors. "It was just such an automatic reaction — nobody's going to hold us back."

Joheanna Buisman, president of SASHA, said she was saddened by the incident — especially because the lights were meant to honour loved ones and caregivers.

But she said the overwhelming support from the community, which included $25,000 in donations for end-of-life-care, only grew after the incident.

Johanna Buisman
Johanna Buisman

"I can't believe the outpouring," said Buisman. "People reaching out and saying 'could we do something for you, can we help you, can we help pay for the lights, can we give you lights, can we help string lights'."

Support has included donations from local business owners to buy new lights for the trees.

RCMP have no leads but want to hear from anyone with information.