Putting the fun back in fundraising

By day, Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre’s (RVH) Dr. Jim Delaney and Dr. Scott McKenzie are mild-mannered, scrub-wearing, scalpel-holding orthopedic surgeons and Dr. Paul Wilson spends long days treating patients in a very busy emergency department.

But at night, Delaney puts on a pair of faded jeans, a T-shirt and, with a guitar slung over his shoulder, rocks the house with his band “Code Blue” with all the confidence of a seasoned musician.

And this is a very good thing for RVH as many of the “gigs” he plays along with his physician colleagues support the health centre.

Through annual events like the Battle of the Bands and even performing as the opening act for Glass Tiger and April Wine at Casino Rama, these ‘docs who rock’ get to have some fun and fundraise at the same time. It’s not a conventional way of raising money for a health centre, but then again, RVH’s supporters don’t do things the conventional way.

Take for example the gang of hockey greats, including Mike Gartner, Shayne Corson and Darcy Tucker, who decided to lace up their skates for a health centre fundraising hockey game in the middle of August.

The brainchild of Barrie Member of Parliament Patrick Brown, Hockey Night in Barrie, is now in its fifth year and has raised more than $400,000 for the health centre. It’s the largest charity sporting event in the region and features not only former and current NHL players but celebrities including Don Cherry, Ron MacLean, Kurt Browning and even Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

To quote MP Patrick Brown, “What better way to raise funds for the health centre than to bring hockey to a hockey town in the middle of the summer?”

When Brown pitched the idea to the RVH Foundation, they jumped on board knowing the community would rally behind it.

“Every day someone comes to us with a fundraising idea. Sometimes it’s a golf tournament, a bake sale or even a marathon. And sometimes it’s an idea that seems impossible – and we know it will work because we know our community is behind us,” says Eric Dean, CEO, RVH Foundation.

But the key ingredient for successful RVH events isn’t always a far-fetched idea. The key ingredient is the partnerships the health centre has developed with the community over the years.

For 26 years now RVH has partnered with its neighbours at Canadian Forces Base Borden to hold MASH BASH – a ski day held at Snow Valley just outside of Barrie. During  this event the hills are transformed into a military-style camp with themed activities such as bed-pan races down the ski hills, ‘grenade’ launch, ‘bomb’ burst games and much more. Military personnel come out in full force bringing military tents, equipment and even a Griffon helicopter. This wildly successful event has netted more than half a million dollars for RVH over the years and shows no sign of slowing down.

This level of community support has been crucial during the past few years as the RVH Foundation launched the “I Believe” campaign in support of the Phase 1 Expansion project. The expansion, which opened in May, doubled the size of the health centre and has brought care closer to home for residents of Simcoe Muskoka. The “I Believe” campaign was so successful it surpassed its goal of $35 million and raised more than $35.6 million

“I am continually humbled and astounded by the level of support this region has for our health centre,” says Janice Skot, RVH president and CEO. “Every time I attend one of these unique events I am reminded that individuals, businesses and service clubs throughout Simcoe Muskoka are committed to improving healthcare and have demonstrated that unwavering dedication by continuing to support RVH.”

Event organizers know that being innovative and unique makes fundraisers successful.  And that’s what the highly successful Fashionistas’ Unite event is all about. This event, now in its third year, features style expert Moe Kelso pulling people directly from the audience for on the spot hair, makeup and clothing makeovers.

It’s an evening of fashion, fun and friends. Organizers Mike Brooks and Joan Kelso from RBC Wealth Management / RBC Dominion Securities keep growing the event every year and with that, grow their support for RVH. “We wanted to do an event in support of RVH, but we wanted something different,” says Brooks. “Fashionistas’ is a little different, a little unique and this definitely makes it stand out and be successful.”

Over the years, there’s definitely been some headline grabbing events held on behalf of RVH. High school student Kelly Desjardins sat perched in a skyjack, on the roof of a local Walmart, for an entire weekend to raise money for the Simcoe Muskoka Regional Cancer Centre at RVH.

The Greater Barrie Home Builders Association decided to build an entire house in one weekend – all with donated materials and labour and then sold the house, donating the proceeds to RVH.

How ever they are done, events that raise funds for Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre are definitely working. Events organized by members of the community raise in excess of $400,000 annually and RVH-run events approach $300,000 annually. These funds go directly to supporting patient care, purchasing new equipment and technology and ensuring that the very same people who bought a ticket to a hockey game, enjoyed a day on the slopes, sang along with some doctors, can get the care they need, when they need it, close to home.