Veronica Carroll, CEO of the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island, discusses the plan for the Home Away from Home in Campbell River with the Strathcona Regional District. Photo by Mike Chouinard/Campbell River Mirror

Home Away from Home to support families during kids’ medical treatment

Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island has lead gift to start project campaign

To help families of children with needing medical treatment, the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island wants to set up a home in this region along the lines of Jeneece Place in Victoria

Veronica Carroll, CEO of the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island, appeared along with Anita Brassard, community investment manager, before the Strathcona Regional District board at the April 10 meeting to let the SRD know about the Home Away from Home project.

The foundation, which has been around for 90 years, works in three main areas: early childhood development, youth mental health, and children and youth living with complex needs.

“The foundation has evolved along with the changing health care needs,” Carroll said. “We know that kids may only be 20 per cent of our island’s population, but they’re 100 per cent of our future.”

Jeneece Place provides a home for families while children are receiving medical care in Victoria. It was built on the grounds of Victoria General Hospital in a natural environment and officially opened at the beginning of 2012. The facility was named after Jeneece Edroff, or “the penny girl” who inspired people to get behind the project and raised millions of dollars from what was initially a penny drive.

“She had a dream to have a welcoming and safe home for families and their children,” Carroll said.

Jeneece Place includes 10 bedrooms with a large shared kitchen, media room, playground, garden and art room, and it has welcomed almost 2,000 families since it opened and has an average occupancy of roughly 90 per cent.

“We’ve noticed that there have been many relationships formed between families who are sharing experiences while staying at the Home Away from Home,” she said.

The goal is to both provide a refuge near medical facilities for children and relieve some of the financial burden on families.

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“We have the capacity to reach more families across the Island, and it’s a part of our mandate to support all Island families,” Carroll said, adding there are also compelling reasons to build an adult lodge Home Away from Home.

The plan now is to meet regional needs for a site based on the Jeneece Place model. There is land available near the new North Island Hospital as well as a future phase. The facility would primarily support families from rural and remote communities.

“Island Health and its partners have done a really thorough analysis of the need,” Carroll said. “Having a safe, welcoming space is absolutely needed.”

The estimated demand for the 10 beds breaks down to 4.5 beds for visiting pregnant women staying in Campbell River prior to due dates; three for families staying here when children are in hospital; 1.5 for families needing accommodation for day service treatment and one “miscellaneous” additional bed for families supporting patients.

Island Health has agreed to provide the land close to the hospital. At present, the organizers are looking to identify the lead architect for the project.

The process will also include consultation with community stakeholders to provide their vision for the project. The organizers will also identify a lead agency to spearhead the adult lodge phase of the project.

The hope now is to line up community support and funding worth $4.5 million for the capital portion of the project and another $2.5 million to cover the first five years of operating costs. The plan is to work toward occupancy in early 2021.

“We have already received the $3 million lead gift for the project,” Carroll said.

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