How to climb a mountain with big dreams

Written by Brother Maurice Koszman - Saskatchewan Elks Association

In the more than 105 years since our inception, the Elks and the Royal Purple Elks have been involved in many projects designed with the vision of helping our communities grow and thrive.

As you know the Elks and Royal Purple Fund for Children is our National Foundation and allows us to help thousands of children in communities across Canada. At home and in our communities, on a more personal level, the Elks and Royal Purple have built ice rinks, town and fire halls, helped build parks and lend financial support to families and individuals who faced personal difficulties.

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In Saskatchewan there is one project whereby an entire region of the province saw the combined benefits of the Elks and Royal Purple taking on a single fund-raiser.

In 1996 three individuals took up the challenge to equip the Tri-District area of Saskatchewan with a satellite Dialysis unit.

Lynn Dutell, Herb Voight and Jean Wolz, members of Star City and the Nipawin Saskatchewan Elks and Royal Purple in the region, were pivotal to move this project beyond just talk at a meeting, to “Let’s make this happen now”. There had been a great deal of discussion among members who said a unit in their region was vital to the continued care of patients in the region. Many members of their respective lodges had helped friends and family who required dialysis, often travelling long distances from home for treatments which took upwards of 4-8 hours to complete, in all kinds of weather. Their community and fellow members agreed that there was a need, but until these three took up the leadership, it was all talk. Together they formed a committee to begin to make this a reality for the region.

The first step for the committee was to get approval from Saskatchewan Health and a confirmation that if the funds were raised in full, a dialysis unit would be built in the Tisdale Hospital. The Tisdale location was identified as being the most centralized hospital for patients to travel to and would service those patients in the Tri-District Region.  The region routinely sees patients from Prince Albert, Nipawin, Kelvington and Wadena areas as well as Hudson Bay.

 Satellite Dialysis Unit

Satellite Dialysis Unit

The committee was informed by Saskatchewan Health that the unit would cost an estimated $180,000 and the committee determined that would be their initial goal for fundraising efforts.

So now that they had approval, where do they begin? The individual lodges of Elks District 1, and Royal Purple District 3 were brought in on the project and began the task of contacting neighbouring communities who did not have “Purple” lodges. This was done not just by written correspondence but also by face to face meetings with members by the host committee travelling to speak to the lodges in person about the needs for the fund and their goal. It was felt that by personally requesting support from the lodges that funding would follow as well as helping spread the word that the unit was a needed asset for the region.

In November 1997, the Nipawin Elks opened the fundraising with a $20,000 donation to get things started. Renovations and installation of equipment began in earnest. Over the next four months, other service clubs, individuals, businesses and corporations were contacted and presented the option of being donors to the project, many of them donated and helped steam roll the project forward. Money began coming in from sources who had heard of the project through media sources and word of mouth and wanted to help.

In April 1998 the first patient was treated in the new satellite unit. No that's not a typo --- four months after their plan began Tisdale hospital was treating their first dialysis patient, success had been achieved!

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In June 1999 the unit expanded allowing the treatment of 6 patients in the Tisdale unit and Twenty years later the unit treats an average of 12 people a day. This has been a momentous achievement for the region. Patients are now able to receive treatments close to home, under the guidance of trained medical professionals, without the need to travel extended distances for care. Today the unit operates three days per week, serving about a dozen patients from the area who previously had to travel to Regina or Saskatoon for treatment.

This information is given not to say that the Elks and Royal Purple were the only ones that could have done this project. But it is designed to say that without the leadership provided by three of our members, it might not have happened. Any project of any size is accomplished only because someone takes it upon themselves to become the driving force. That is what Elks and Royal Purple members have done for over 100 years; become leaders!

Maurice Koszman
Saskatchewan Elks Association