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Jan. 28, 2022 | Friday
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NOTL Palliative Care raising money for feel-good medicine, director says
Bonnie Bagnulo, Trish Anthony and Courtney MacGregor of NOTL Palliative Care. The organization has been participating in The Healing Cycle Foundation's charity ride for nine years. (Evan Saunders)

Niagara-on-the-Lake Palliative Care will be raising money through the Healing Cycle Foundation to hire a registered massage therapist for palliative care patients, a first for the end-of-life care program and long-term care homes in NOTL, executive director Bonnie Bagnulo says.

And a group of local health care practitioners along with Lord Mayor Betty Disero and MPP Wayne Gates will be riding on the Pedal Pub to raise money for the organization.

On Sept. 25, the group will leave the Pedal Pub’s headquarters at 319 Mary St. and go on a 10-kilometre route to raise awareness and money for palliative care.

Sharla-Rae Wiens of the Ukesters will be riding on the Pedal Pub and playing ukulele at the same time.

The mobile pub will be stopping at Upper Canada Lodge during the ride where the full Ukesters will put on a show for the residents, Bagnulo said in an interview Wednesday.

The Healing Cycle Foundation is a virtual non-profit volunteer-based organization in Ontario focused on raising funds to increase access to palliative care.

In the past, it has hosted a single-day ride in September to raise money for all palliative care centres in Ontario.

This year the ride will be virtual. Instead of focusing on a single day volunteers are encouraged to ride throughout the month to raise money within their own municipalities.

Another change this year is that all the money raised within a municipality will go to the palliative care centres there.

Bagnulo is incredibly grateful for the community support the ride has received over the past nine years, she said.

“I’m glad this small town has this service and has supported this service the way they have,” she said.

She expressed particular gratitude to fundraiser and cyclist extraordinaire Tim Taylor and his Santa for Palliative Care program.

“I mean, that man is a machine,” she said.

“He’s our gift, we are so blessed by him. He single-handedly puts in so many kilometres and has raised so much money.”

Taylor has been riding throughout September for the cause.

“He put us past $5,000 in the first week of donating,” Bagnulo said.

The local funds will help palliative care pay for a registered massage therapist wellness program.

Bagnulo said it will be “feel-good medicine.”

Services like massage help to increase quality of life for patients in palliative care beyond standard medical treatments, she said.

“None of us are getting out of this alive. So, if we can make the end stages as best as humanly possible then we’ve provided something that could sometimes be even more valuable than medicine,” she said.

Margaret Lambert, director of care at Upper Canada Lodge, told Bagnulo the service had never been available for residents before.

“If somebody ever wanted a massage they’d have to pay for it and get somebody private in,” Bagnulo said.

She recalled when her father was in the hospital and how much it meant to him to have her there, holding his hand and massaging his feet.

“It’s so hard for me to do this through tears,” she remembered thinking, “because these are feet that aren’t going to be here forever.”

“You see them take a deep breath and close their eyes and you know that you’ve brought some comfort to this life and that’s all that matters,” Bagnulo said.

Being able to provide that service to patients in palliative care thus has special significance for Bagnulo.

“I thought, ‘Oh God, if I could just make this happen.’ So, I couldn’t be happier right now,” she said.

Residents can donate with a cheque made out to the Healing Cycle Foundation but given to Bagnulo so they can be submitted with the NOTL package.

Cash donations can be brought to the Pedal Pub on Sept. 25, between 9 and 11 a.m.

Donations also can be made online directly to NOTL palliative care at Scroll down and click the “donate now” link.