Tall, short, young, and old, in the Grand Parade you would find all sorts of participants who had one thing in common: the desire to see the new Dundas Manor become a reality. The Winchester Grand Parade, hosted by Dundas Manor, had a total of 138 walkers spread across 23 teams along with 37 volunteers. By the end of the day, they had raised more than $100,000, far exceeding their goal of $45,000. See page 2 for the full story.   Tinkess Photo

WINCHESTER – According to Kristen Casselman, the managing director of the Winchester District Memorial Hospital (WDMH) Foundation, things could not be going any better. “It’s just been a wonderful morning so far. The weather is great. We have so many people here ready to go,” said Casselman. “We just couldn’t ask for better weather or better support from our community to help build the new Dundas Manor. I’m very proud to say that the Grand Parade invited us to do this walk a few years ago and we’re currently in first place as far as fundraising goes at this moment in time. That could change; we never know, but it’s just a true testament to our community’s generosity and how much they really, really care about the new Dundas Manor and we’re just so humbled and so grateful to them and I am very proud to be a part of this community.”

What has been accomplished is even more impressive when you consider the size of the community and the foundation. “Yes, absolutely,” added Casselman. “We’re a small community, small but mighty, that’s for sure. It’s been proven over and over again, with the redevelopment of the hospital and now building a new Dundas Manor, the community has always been there and has always stepped up.

The Winchester Grand Parade, which was hosted by Dundas Manor had a total of 138 walkers spread across 23 teams along with 37 volunteers. By the end of the day, they had raised more than $100,000, far exceeding their goal of $45,000. According to Cindy Ault Peters, campaign assistant/event coordinator, the total might still grow. “We are thrilled to be the number one parade in Canada,” said Ault Peters. “Donations can still be made to the Grand Parade at www.thegrandparade.org/winchester.”

A final total will be announced in early October.

As fitting for an event of this nature, a number of local dignitaries spoke briefly before sending the walkers off on their journey. Stormont, Dundas, and South Glengarry MPP Nolan Quinn spoke of how important projects like the new Dundas Manor are, as the province struggles to catchup to the demand for long-term care beds.

“I’ve been working with Cholly (Boland, CEO WDMH) since I got elected day one,” said Quinn. “Day two, I think it was, so I heard about Dundas Manor and Bill Smirle. He keeps me updated quite regularly about the importance of this project for all of us. So, thank you for coming out today. It’s beautiful weather. I don’t think we could have asked for better. It’s not raining, it’s nice and sunny. But we all know that this home is extremely important. It’s long overdue to redevelop and we will continue working and I’ll continue working with Cholly to make sure that this does come to fruition.

“I know we’re going to turn the sod sooner rather than later. But ultimately, as a province, we are trying to catch up. Not to get too political but we are building 30,000 new long-term care beds and redoing 28,000. So about 60,000 beds are needed. Just last year, there was a 40,000-person waitlist going into long-term care. So ultimately, it’s something we should have started 10 years ago, but we are making the progress now to ensure that our loved ones are looked after in the home-like setting rather than an institutional setting.”

Tony Fraser, the warden of the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry, and mayor of North Dundas spoke of the power of community. “Today we gather here to express our heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to the incredible organizers, the volunteers, participants, and supporters who will join hands in the mission to raise awareness and garner support for the new Dundas Manor,” said Fraser. “This endeavour has been a testament to the power of community, compassion, and collective action. In your unwavering commitment has touched the lives of countless individuals, to the organizers whose passion and dedication set the stage for this remarkable journey. We owe a debt of gratitude. And I look at Cholly and his group, your vision, tireless efforts, and meticulous planning have been the driving force behind this successful campaign. Your leadership has inspired us all to rally around this vital cause.

A special thank you goes out to the dedicated volunteers who selflessly give their time, energy, and expertise. Your willingness to go above and beyond has been truly inspiring. You have been the backbone of the efforts, and your enthusiasm is infectious. To the participants who led through voices and shared their stories. You brought a human face to the cause.”

With the talking wrapped up, the participants were led in warmup exercises by Matty Villeneuve from Marathon Fitness. Then they were on their way.

It was an interesting group that exited the parking lot. There were children barely able to walk and people like Anita Weagant, who at 99 years was chauffeured in a wheelchair by her son Bob Weagant. There were people on scooters, some on motorized wheelchairs, a few in the front seats of pedal cab type bicycles as you would find in New York City. There were people walking slowly, others walking quickly, and a few did their walking vicariously, although you knew they would be out there pounding the pavement if only they could.

The one thing they had in common was a smile on their face. They were doing something important, something that needed doing and maybe they would personally see the benefit of it, and maybe the benefit would only be felt by others, but that part didn’t matter. When you are a part of a community, you do things for the good of the community and that could not have been more evident than it was as this group of community minded souls made their way through the streets of Winchester. It was just something they had to do.