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Help coming for the 'smallest and sickest'

Breast pumps on their way to Royal Alex, courtesy of St. Albert Community Foundation

By: Scott Hayes

  |  Posted: Saturday, Jan 18, 2014 06:00 am

HOSPITAL HELP – Terry Tobin accepts the Dec. 18 donation from Dan Roy.
HOSPITAL HELP – Terry Tobin accepts the Dec. 18 donation from Dan Roy.
STU SALKELD/St. Albert Gazette

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St. Albert Community Foundation

The foundation announced its recent round of grants in mid-December. This is the first of an eight part series looking at each of those grants and what the receiving organizations have planned for them.

The Royal Alexandra Hospital needs all of the help that it can get. Every year, thousands of expecting mothers go to its Lois Hole Hospital for Women to deliver their babies. Not all births are smooth though and frequently those new moms and new babies need a little help.

That’s where the St. Albert Community Foundation has stepped in to help. In mid-December, it held a small function at the offices of the St. Albert Gazette to announce its latest round of grants to various community organizations. It offered up a cheque for $4,700 to enable the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation to purchase two very unique pieces of equipment: computerized and programmable breast pumps that have a very specific and important function.

“It simulates the sucking that a newborn or preemie newborn would have,” explained Terry Tobin, the senior development officer of major gifts, bequests and planned giving at the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation, or RAHF.

“I think that’s a great comfort to the ladies involved. I think that given the fact that many of these babies are fragile and end up in incubators, it’s a great challenge for these new moms.”

The hospital serves a geographic area spanning northern the portions of Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia, as well as the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Because of the number of total deliveries, breast pumps are in constant demand. There are 6,000 new births at the hospital, 1,300 of which require the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or NICU. Mothers in such situations aren’t always able to suckle their babies but breast milk is still the most important nutrition to help them thrive and grow.

The Medela breast pumps are expected to be put to use within the next six weeks. Tobin said that the staff members are very excited.

“They can see the demand working with these moms on a daily basis and how important it is. We’re very appreciative. This donation will add to the quality of care we are able to provide for critically ill newborns and premature babies.”

Andrew Otway, the hospital foundation’s president and chief executive officer, is very pleased with the support.

“The feedback from the staff and from what I’ve seen myself is that this kind of support from organizations like the St. Albert Community Foundation really makes the care exceptional for our patients, in this case specifically for these new moms and the smallest, sickest patients that we have, which are the babies in the NICU.”

This is the first time that the RAHF has accessed the St. Albert Community Foundation’s Thatcher Neonatal Fund, one of several funding options available to community groups.

Kent Davidson, president of the board of the community foundation, explained that the fund was specifically set up to assist neonates in the community. Many expectant St. Albert mothers go to the Lois Hole Hospital for maternity health care.

“The income from that fund we devote to … neonatal care, neonatal research, helping facilities either in transport units or special incubators or that kind of expensive equipment.”

“Our community is fortunate to be served by a lot of highly committed volunteers who assist in a wide range of community needs. I think it’s difficult for organizations that are basically volunteer-driven organizations to access the resources which they need to maximize their effectiveness in the community, serving the charitable interests which they do.”

The St. Albert Community Foundation works by accepting endowments from private citizens who wish to make lasting contributions to the community. The foundation itself is assisted in its cause through the larger support of the Edmonton Community Foundation, or ECF. Grants are usually offered in the $500 to $9,000 range.

The ECF invests the St. Albert Community Foundation’s funds along with its own, which allows for a better return on the dollar than it could get by itself. It then puts up about 3.5 per cent of the investment income for annual grants to different groups.

Davidson expressed his gratitude.

“We have a great relationship with the Edmonton Community Foundation. They’ve been very supportive of our organization over the years, and continue to provide us with fund management services at a very modest price. That enables us to maximize the income from the endowments that we have. Any endowment which comes to us from any source is always immediately put to a full use in the community.”

In December, grants totaling $25,000 were handed out to six community groups.

The St. Albert Community Foundation hosts an annual golf tournament to provide funding for its administrative costs. This year’s event is expected to take place in June.

For more information on the St. Albert Community Foundation, please 780-458-8351 or visit its website at www.sacf.ca. To learn more about the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation, call 780-735-4723 or visit www.royalalex.org.


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