Western Wheel Charity far exceeds goal

Okotoks: $34,289 raised to be split between five local organizations

By: Don Patterson

  |  Posted: Friday, Jan 17, 2014 11:18 am

From the left, Sherry Botten with Rowan House, Karen Wilke with the Okotoks Food Bank, Dawn Elliott with the Foothills Country Hospice, publisher of the Western Wheel Paul Rockley, Western Wheel office manager Gayle Wolf, Harlene Day with the Sheep River Family Trust, and Angie Steciw with the Magic of Christmas stand in front of the Western Wheel office proudly receiving the proceeds of the 2013 Western Wheel Cares charity.
From the left, Sherry Botten with Rowan House, Karen Wilke with the Okotoks Food Bank, Dawn Elliott with the Foothills Country Hospice, publisher of the Western Wheel Paul Rockley, Western Wheel office manager Gayle Wolf, Harlene Day with the Sheep River Family Trust, and Angie Steciw with the Magic of Christmas stand in front of the Western Wheel office proudly receiving the proceeds of the 2013 Western Wheel Cares charity.
Jordan Verlage/OWW

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Foothills residents and businesses proved Christmas is the season of caring and giving with their overwhelming support for the Western Wheel’s Wheel Cares campaign, far exceeding fundraising expectations over the holiday season.

The campaign raised $34,289.25, which will be split among five foothills charities. This year’s total far exceeds the $26,481.65 raised in the charity fund’s inaugural season a year ago.

“We were absolutely delighted to see that this year’s number was so much more than last year,” said Western Wheel publisher Paul Rockley.

The total amount will be split evenly with $6,857.85 each going to the Sheep River Health Trust, the Rowan House Emergency Shelter, the Okotoks and District Food Bank, the Foothills Country Hospice and the Magic of Christmas program.

The Magic of Christmas is a new recipient of the Wheel Cares campaign this year, while the other charities were all past recipients and will each receive about $200 more this year.

“I’m extremely pleased to be able to give more than we gave last year,” said Rockley.

His goal was to raise $25,000 this year.

Rockley admitted he had doubts on whether the campaign would reach the goal after people had already donated so much to flood relief efforts.

However, the generosity of the foothills community never ceases to amaze him.

“I find it extremely heartwarming,” said Rockley. “The readers of the Western Wheel in our area are so benevolent at Christmas.”

The Western Wheel Cares Campaign will continue again in 2014 and Rockley said he hopes to build on this year’s success.

“We will continue to do it and continue to look for worthy charities and causes in the community and we hope that the public in the foothills area continues to feel it is a worthwhile charity for them to support,” he said.

Kelly Bailie, with The Magic of Christmas, said the support is unbelievable.

She said the funds will help the organization to expand its work of visiting families and homes in foothills communities to hand out gifts and food cards to people who need it and they hope to support more families next year.

“It opens so many more doors for us to be able to support more people in our communities,” said Bailie. “We’ve been very small and I know that next year is probably going to be even bigger.”

Bailie said food vouchers are the most expensive items they hand out and the funding will make a big difference in this area.

The group’s volunteer ‘elves’ were kept busy in the days before Christmas visiting 68 homes, three seniors housing facilities and a large-scale community in High River.

“We had four flat-bed trucks with hay bails and four school buses full of our elves and volunteers, we went into the community and distributed candies, stuffies and that kind of thing to reach out to as many people as we could,” said Bailie.

The Okotoks Food Bank’s executive director said they are appreciative of the support from the Wheel Cares campaign.

“It’s actually way more than I expected to come in,” said Karen Wilke.

She said the funds could be put towards work on a new home for the food bank.

“It may very well go towards something involved in the move or the renovation because there are definite costs to that,” she said.

Wilke said people living in the foothills showed overwhelming generosity at Christmas, especially after so much was given earlier in 2013 to support flood recovery efforts.

“A lot of charities and agencies weren’t sure how it would go this Christmas just with all the demand over the last six months,” she said. “Once again I just applaud our community, they’re so generous, so giving.”

The Foothills Country Hospice will use its share of the campaign proceeds to purchase a Prime Aire Mattress for its patients.

Hospice executive director Dawn Elliott said the mattresses cost about $4,500 each to make their patients’ stay at the hospice more comfortable.

“Most of our patients have lost a lot of weight and are very frail, and without body fat and muscles to protect their skin, their poor bones are often resting directly on the mattress,” she said. “These mattresses use a pumping system to circulate air, providing subtle movement changes that allow the mattress to expand and contract with patient movement.”

Elliott said the support of the Wheel Cares Campaign, and those who donated to it, means a lot to the hospice to be able to improve the lives of its patients.

“This campaign means that we have a vast number of caring people in our community and surrounding areas who want to help us continue to provide the best level of care and comfort to every patient who stays at our hospice,” she said.


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