Talking about fundraising gets Bonnie Bagnulo excited.
Elated, even, animated about raising money to offer those suffering from life-limiting diseases more support than she is currently able to provide.
The executive director of Niagara-on-the-Lake Community Palliative Care becomes emotional when she thinks about people dying alone, when they don’t need to. Or in pain, when there are ways to make it go away.
Death is a journey nobody should have to travel alone, not those in the final stage of their lives, or those caring for them, she says.
Palliative care is gaining more awareness in the community, but there are so many more visits she and her volunteers would like to make, hands to hold, feet to rub, and programs to offer.
Although more people are becoming aware of the service through word of mouth, she says, and now more and more from health care providers, it still breaks her heart to talk to someone who has lost a family member who will say to her, “‘I wish I had known about you.’ There are so many more people we could have helped, caregivers we could have supported,” she says.
Being able to provide hospice and palliative care is a mission for her, and she will never be able to do all she would like to, but each fundraiser allows the service to offer more for those who need it.
When COVID hit, the ability to deliver service was severely reduced, and the last year has been “extraordinary difficult.” A small group of volunteers were kept busy, but it’s been difficult keeping the team together.”
They are now able to go into long-term care homes, but their movements are restricted, and in-home visits have to be one on one — only one volunteer can go into one home. Volunteers have also been communicating by phone, and visiting outdoors.
But Bagnulo wants to do more than that. She has plans to expand. At the top of her wish list is a registered massage therapist, someone who can visit those in long-term care, or at home, and even provide some relief for the stressed and exhausted caregivers looking after their loved one at home.
And she’s counting on the annual Healing Cycle, which the local service is joining for its ninth year, to provide the funding for the RMT service — any money raised by the Sept. 25 ride will support the new program, with anything left over going to replace outdated equipment palliative care loans out, such as wheelchairs or lift chairs.
The cycling event traditionally takes place on a specific day in September in Mississauga, and funds hospice palliative care communities across Ontario. This year, as last, teams are being asked to ride in their own communities.
The NOTL group’s team, the Pedal Pushers, will ride a 10-kilometre route Sept. 25, and a new and exciting addition this year will be the Pedal Pub, with riders onboard also raising awareness and funds for palliative care. On the Pedal Pub, says Bagnulo, will be Lord Mayor Betty Disero, Dr. Karen Berti, MPP Wayne Gates, Sean Simpson from Simpson’s Pharmasave, and others.
The ride will begin at the Pedal Pub’s Mary Street location at 9 a.m., and after a stop at Upper Canada Lodge for entertainment by The Ukesters, about half-way through the 10 kilometres, along a route approved by the town, it will end up back on Mary Street by about 11 a.m.
Staff at Upper Canada Lodge are excited to have The Ukesters and the Pedal Pushers stop by, says Bagnulo, and are enthusiastic about the RMT service palliative care plans to provide for all three long-term care homes in NOTL.
Having the very visible Pedal Pub joining the Healing Cycle, and those who are taking part in the event, will help raise much-needed awareness, she says. “With them onboard, palliative care won’t be a little secret anymore.”
Bagnulo is feeling very fortunate to once again have Pedal Pusher Tim Taylor (aka Santa) along for the ride. He has already cycled more than 400 kilometres for this year’s Healing Cycle, the minimum a team can ride for the event, and raised more than $5,000, all for the cause of palliative care. “He is such a gift for us. We’re so grateful for all he does.”
The Pedal Pushers are welcoming anyone who would like to join their Healing Cycle ride. Those who aren’t interested in cycling are welcome to drop off donations at the Pedal Pub location on the morning of Sept. 25, between 9 a.m. and about 11 a.m., says Bagnulo.
Visit www.notlpc.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Cheques can be mailed to NOTL Community Palliative Care Service, P.O. BOX 130, NOTL L0S 1J0.
The Healing Cycle Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting hospices and palliative care units across Ontario, raising funds through the annual Healing Cycle Ride, now in its 16th year. Over the past 15 years, The Healing Cycle Foundation has raised more than $3 million for Ontario hospices and palliative care units.