I am now starting my third week at Bethell Hospice and my mind is swimming with information. I spent most of the first week reading, reading and more reading. From what I have seen/heard from other PULSE volunteers this is the norm; taking time to familiarize ourselves with the NGO that we are supporting so that we can understand how they work and function in order to be able to be knowledgeable about our environment so that we can be impactful with our deliverables.
Today I want to give you some insight into the hospice and its history. Bethell Hospice, formerly known as Hospice Caledon, has provided of 20 years of community based compassionate care and support to people and their families touched by terminal illness. The belief is that hospice care is as much about living as it is about dying. Living with dignity and the best possible quality of life is the foundation of this care.
In the beginning the group was able to provide various programs and support services through a visiting volunteer program and some specialized programs. Some of these programs included Rainbows, providing grief and bereavement support to children of school-age who were dealing with a personal loss. This expanded to provide a free summer day camp for children whose families were struggling with medical/terminal issues.
The Visiting Volunteer program provides support to families caring for loved ones at home. Volunteers were provided with specialized training, free of charge, and then go into the community to provide respite care, support and often simple companionship.
In 2005 the Bethell family became involved with the organization, spearheading the establishment of an end-of-life residential facility which was opened in 2010 as Bethell House, which provides services to the Central West-LHIN.
In 2011 the agency was reintroduced to the community as Bethell Hospice, to maintain the history of service to Caledon and to honor Caledon resident and Bethell House champion, Lorna Bethell. What brought Lorna Bethell to the realization that a resident care facility was necessary? In her own words,
“When my husband Tony was nearing the end of his life, our family was very fortunate to be able to care for him at home. We had the support of a loving and dedicated team that surrounded us with family and friends. Everyone deserves this kind of care.” – Lorna Bethell, 2010.
Mr. Tony Bethell’s ambition was to build a hospice in Caledon so that everyone, regardless of income, could get the same quality of care he did at home. Mrs. Bethell and her family led the effort to realize this goal and were able to build a local residential hospice, aptly named Bethell House, in memory of both Mr. Bethell and their beloved son, Jamie, who had also passed.
A little known fact is that in 1944 Flight Lieutenant Tony Bethell, late husband of Lorna Bethell was one of the 76 air force officers to break out of Stalag Luft III during “The Great Escape”. It was a daring scheme that involved digging three tunnels out of the camp. In the end, of the 76 Allied prisoners who escaped, all but three, including Mr. Bethell, were captured. Of the 73 men captured, 50 were later executed. The story of The Great Escape was made into a 1963 Hollywood film featuring stars James Garner and Steve McQueen.
The Bethell family continues to play an integral part in insuring that Mr. Bethell’s vision of top quality palliative care is provided by Bethell Hospice and its volunteers and staff.