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Fundraising goals met for CT Scanner

CN comes through with pledge for $100,000, WORCA fundraiser adds $5,500

By Andrew Mitchell

A journey that began more than five years ago after the sudden death of a local skier at last reached its end in the parking lot of the Whistler Health Care Centre on Friday.

David McLean, chair of the CN Railway board, presented the Whistler Health Care Foundation with a cheque for $100,000, which will go towards the installation of a CT scanner in Whistler, the only one in the Sea to Sky area.

“I remember we were involved in the campaign to expand the health care centre a few years ago and build a helicopter pad here, which has been put to very good use over the years,” said McLean. “(CN) is very concerned with safety issues, it’s large on our agenda — the number one priority on our agenda these days. This is a good investment for us, not just for the safety of the community but for all our employees who live and work in Sea to Sky.”

McLean is no stranger to Whistler and its health care needs. He has been coming to the resort since 1968 and has owned a place here since the 1970s. His family is also invested in Blackcomb Helicopters.

CN gives out about $6 million annually in donations throughout North America, and through McLean helped to fund the Whistler Health Care Centre in the past during the capital campaign to expand the centre and build a helicopter pad.

The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority agreed to fund the ongoing operation of the scanner, but would not contribute the capital funds needed to buy the scanner or expand the health care centre.

That left the Whistler Health Care Foundation to raise nearly $1.3 million, and they came within a few hundred thousand by the April 1 deadline set by the health authority. At that point they asked for the deadline to be extended for last minute fundraising efforts, and CN’s donation last week helped them reach the goal.

Foundation chair Marnie Simon thanked CN and all the contributors in Sea to Sky that helped to raise the funding.

“It’s really been an amazing response from the community, and outside the community too with people like CN,” she said. “This is a piece of critical care equipment we have needed for many years, and having it here will help doctors to save lives in the corridor.”

Roughly 40 per cent of the scanner’s purchase cost, or $509,000, will be covered by Sea to Sky Regional Hospital District. Last fall the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation kicked off the fundraising drive with a donation of $275,000, followed by $50,000 from the Houssian Family Foundation, $40,000 in memory of Dave Mathews, $25,000 from Geordie Trusler, $12,080 from Dean Alexander, $20,000 from the Royal Bank, and $15,000 from the Downey family holding company. The Squamish and Pemberton health care foundations also contributed $30,000 and $28,000 respectively. When timing became a problem, Jim Duncan stepped in with a donation of $51,500 which allowed the project to move ahead before the foundation heard from CN.

In addition, a group of mountain bikers organized a fundraiser through WORCA last weekend that raised close to $5,500 for the CT scanner. The fundraiser was initially conceived as a way to raise money for injured mountain biker Todd Hellinga, but Hellinga suggested the money go towards the campaign for the CT scanner.

Hellinga suffered multiple injuries when his forks snapped riding in Pemberton, and it took several hours to get him to Lions Gate Hospital for a scan. He is expected to recover, but may require an operation to help his hearing.

“What blew me away is how much response we got with just two weeks notice,” said Hellinga. “People really came out and packed the place.

“I know that the foundation had enough money, but they are already expecting the costs of construction to go up and it was good to be able to keep the interest high in the community and giving a little bit extra to the cause. It really resonated with a lot of people — nobody thinks about it too much until a friend gets hit pretty hard and needs this equipment. I know I’ll feel better once it’s here.”

The fundraiser is still ongoing. Some of Hellinga’s friends took up a collection in the city that they will be adding to the pot. Tony Horn, who helped organize the event to launch the mountain bike season, is looking to sell copies of the 2006 Samurai of Singletrack slideshow he presented at the fundraiser. Contact if you are interested in obtaining a copy.

Construction of the new CT scan facility is expected to get underway in September. An 800 square foot addition will be made to the Whistler Health Care Centre by extending part of the building into the parking area.

Some of the equipment needed has already been provided by the Dave Sheets Foundation for Critical Care Equipment, which started the drive to purchase a CT scanner.

Sheets, a well known skier and angler, died of a head injury in 2002 after colliding with another skier. Although it’s unknown whether Sheets could have been saved, the incident called attention to the lack of critical care equipment at the Whistler Health Care Centre.

Chris Quinlan, a friend of Sheets who started the foundation in his name, said the final funding was a long time in coming.

“All I can say is thank God!” he said. “It was a long haul, but it’s been such a process dealing with this thing. If someone had given us the $1.4 million a few years ago to buy this, it would have sat there in mothballs because there was no operating budget in the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority. We’ve been trying to fundraise for this for over five years, and to finally do it with funding is amazing. We’re glad CN stepped up to the table when they did.”

According to Quinlan, the Dave Sheets Foundation helped to purchase some digital imaging equipment that will be used with the new scanner, as well as contributed to Whistler Health Care Foundation.

CT stands for Computed Tomography, which is a type of medical imaging method used to create 3D models by compiling a series of X-ray images. They can be used to spot a variety of health issues that do not always show up in X-rays, while providing detailed internal maps for doctors and surgeons.