I walked through the wrought iron gate off Matthews Avenue in Shaughnessy and the sweet smell of late summer blossoms filled the air. Immaculate gardens and ambient water features circle around an accessible playground, and the west entrance to a very important home.
Glen Brae Manor was built in 1910 by Scottish lumber baron William Lamont Tait, and over the last century this 16,000 sq ft mansion has housed many individuals and organizations. In 1991, it was willed it the City of Vancouver by then-owner Elisabeth Wlosinski on the condition that it be used for a purpose which would benefit the community. In 1995 it became Canuck Place, North America’s first free-standing children’s hospice.
I have been a sponsor of the annual Canuck Place Gift of Time Gala since 2013 but this was my first visit to the house. I met with Digital Communications Coordinator Elizabeth Moffat who gave me a tour and introduced me to some of the friendly staff.
On the lowest level there are some offices, housekeeping services, a playroom and the Volcano Room. The Volcano Room is soundproof, padded, and filled with colourful foam blocks and rubber balls. It’s a safe environment for letting off steam, in a place where many emotions run high.
Down the hall is a music therapy room, stocked with a variety of instruments and adaptive equipment. Creative music sessions encourage expression, and memories are made when voices and tunes are recorded for keepsakes.
Back on the first level there are meeting rooms, a library, and a full service kitchen, with a very popular cookie jar. Here families at Canuck Place can enjoy homemade meals.
We walked by an administrative office and there was a wall filled with volunteers‘ name tags. There were hundreds. Hundreds of people who dedicate their time to help Canuck Place families enjoy the precious time they all have together.
“Every day is an opportunity for us to make that the Best Day Ever for that child. We get to watch kids in their natural environment. We get to see them alive and playing, or going to school. At a hospital I only see a child or a teen when they’re unwell. I only get that small slice of their life, and at Canuck Place I get to see all of their lives played out in a different way.” – Dr. Hal Siden
Upstairs at the house we met up with Laura Fielding, a Recreational Therapist who has worked at Canuck Place for 17 years. She named all of the programs she’s working on for young kids and youth, talked about memory making projects, and told me that every single day she’s excited to come to work because it’s an honour and a privilege to serve Canuck Place families.
We continued through the classroom, the Snoezelen Room which is a controlled multisensory environment, and up to a few of the family suites on the top floor.
The second floor has nine patient beds, and to respect privacy my tour did not go through that part of the house. I did get to see the lovely family suites upstairs, with room for small to large families to all stay together, comfortably.
Between therapy programs, memory making, art, education, and play, there is so much to love and cherish about Canuck Place.
There’s also clinical care, respite care, counselling, end of life care, bereavement support, so that Canuck Place can carry families throughout the entire span of a child’s life; from the point of diagnosis and progression of illness, to death and beyond.
There are so many ways that Canuck Place helps families create and save memories. Whether it’s out on a field trip to the aquarium, painting in the art room, a stroll in the garden, snuggling up with a book in the library, or simply enjoying a meal around a dining table.
How to Give
Canuck Place delivers care to over 600 newborns, teens and families across the province and through two locations: Vancouver and Abbotsford. Dedicated, professional staff and over 325 volunteers provide a vital lifeline for children and families in their greatest time of need. Canuck Place relies on the generosity of individuals, corporations, and various organizations to raise operating funds, with a portion funded by the Province of BC.