MP Eric Duncan and his mother Bea Wigney are the honorary chairs for Sapphires and Snowflakes. MP Duncan spoke of how proud he is of what the community has been able to accomplish, which Wigney related to a conversation with strangers about how exceptional the care is.
Tinkess Photo

BRINSTON – Matilda Hall in Brinston is a fine facility. It has lots of parking and can hold approximately 300 people depending on the configuration. There’s plenty of washrooms, an excellent kitchen and bar. It’s the functional kind of facility that can host virtually any type of event. You probably wouldn’t call it magical though, at least not until last Saturday evening when it hosted the Sapphires and Snowflakes fundraiser for the New Dundas Manor. On that evening it was magical in every possible way, and the approximately 230 people in attendance would attest to that.

The experience of walking into the main hall was almost other worldly, as everything was bathed in cool, blue light, with projectors positioned around the perimeter creating snowflake shapes on the ceiling and a WDMH logo positioned directly in front of the stage. Everywhere you looked was a collection of blue, silver and white light. Each of the tables was set and adorned with decorations as well as ample servings of meats, cheeses, nuts, fruit and so much more on charcuterie boards. There is only one word to describe it: Magical!

And the people, they were themselves magical, dressed in their best, primarily in blue, and obviously ready to shake off therestrictions of the past couple years and simply enjoy being out and with so many other people who just by being there showed how much they care. When you gather so many like-minded people in one place, there is the chance for you to create one thing.

Magic! And this was before any of the evening’s activities even took place.

Following cocktail hour, master of ceremonies Nancy Farley-Holmes got things started, introducing in order Lisa Little, who stepped in for Bill Smirle, who was unable to attend due to illness, Cholly Boland, WDMH and Dundas Manor CEO, and Lisa Little, who spoke this time as a family member.

Following the welcomes, another little bit of magic occurred in the form of a live auction. This was not your typical auction, and it gave a good indication of how the rest of the evening was going to develop. The auctioneer, Ryan E. Watson was exceptional, moving things along quickly, but also being extremely engaging while doing so. The list of live auction items was short, only ten, but most people, even if they weren’t bidding, must have been exhausted by the time the gavel came down for the final item. Some were bidding only for themselves, others were bidding against friends, some were even bidding against themselves. When all was said and done, roughly $17,000 had been raised on everything from butter tarts to Mont Tremblant vacations.

Magic? Maybe, but certainly entertaining.

Following the live auction, the honorary chairs, MP Eric Duncan, and his mother Bea Wigney spoke. MP Duncan spoke of how proud he is of the efforts of the community in supporting the new Dundas Manor.

“We’re proud here tonight for many reasons,” said MP Duncan. “We’re proud of this new project and the new build and the new home that the residents will benefit from years to come. We’re proud of the staff that make it not a facility of any sort, but a home. And we’re proud of all of you for being here tonight and supporting such a wonderful cause.”

Wigney spoke of an encounter she had earlier in the day and of speaking with a couple who were new to the care offered at Dundas Manor. “I spoke to a couple today, here, and I wondered what brings you here, you’re a little bit out of the area,” said Wigney. “And he said, “I just moved my mom there about a month ago, and we cannot believe the care that she’s receiving, how well she is doing.” And they are only about the care that she is receiving now, so I’m looking forward to the day when she will move to the new home and receive extended care.”

Things were magical up to this point, but the magic meter went even higher when Jennifer Hill, who has been the activity director at Dundas Manor for 29 Years related stories of a couple of the residents and how, despite working in one of the most difficult situations, the staff members find it in themselves each day to make the residents feel that they are special and in a special place. “Everyone who has spent any time at Dundas Manor knows and has felt that special feeling that it holds within its walls,” said Hill. “Some actually call it magic. The walls hold many things; residents who come to spend their last days in a warm, safe, cozy home.” She then went on to describe some of the magic that exists at Dundas Manor every day.

“It’s quilts on the walls and on the beds and on the residents’ final moments going out of the home. It’s a drive by old homesteads. How about real China teacups, nice napkins, good tablecloths, old fashioned flowers growing in the flower beds? Can you feel the magic? It’s ice cream trucks, it’s taking residents who like to live ‘rock and roll’ to Kemptville Live and taking them to the spooky wagon rides. It’s going to pick strawberries, to see the tulips. It’s having tractors drive by and farm animals on the back patio. It’s old cars, it’s new cars, it’s barbecues. It’s warm, it’s seasonal décor, it’s themed events, it’s morning announcements to tell them what day it is and what’s planned. It’s cooking classes with resident’s recipes, it’s staff who put on red noses and make people smile.

“It’s helping residents who want to lie on the grass one more time to do so. Our care team wrap their arms around our residents, and they love them. They meet them where they are. We talk about dentures and bowel movements and aches and pains and ailments. We talk about lives well lived, experiences, adventures, we talk about regrets and mistakes, about sadness and pain. We talk about success and achievements. How lucky for me to have met and cared for people that came to this country with absolutely nothing, literally the clothes on their back, and through hard work and tenacity built some of the most successful businesses and farms around. I get to care for people who’ve overcome poverty, heartache, sadness, and then in their last days shared stories of triumph and survival. Those conversations are real and raw, and they are part of the magic.”

There were smiles, and there were tears, many tears, and there was silence as she spoke, and magic in her words and if you couldn’t feel it you might want to think about finding meaning in your life.

With the emotion in the room riding on a knife’s edge, auctioneer Watson returned to the stage for what was described as a special fund-a-need fundraiser and easily the most dramatic part of the evening. Speaking in a very soft and respectful voice, he proceeded to ask of the audience, how much they would be comfortable donating, starting at $6 million; the amount that remains to be raised locally. Silence once again gripped the room, as everyone waited to see if someone would step forward. When no one did, he lowered the ask to $1 million, then $100,000, then $50,000.

At $25,000 one hand went up. At $10,000 more hands went up, as they did at $5,000 and $2,500, $1,000, and finally $500. So many hands, so much generosity. An official total wasn’t available at the time, but one Facebook post congratulated everyone in raising more than $100,000.

Kristen Casselman, the managing director of the WDMH Foundation took the stage briefly to thank everyone for their generosity. How do you follow what had just happened? It would be difficult to find the words to describe what had taken place in Matilda Hall in a small community on a cold, November evening. So much had been accomplished, another step forward. Only one thing comes to mind.