For Rio Terrace resident Sandra Smith, celebrating her mother’s birthday was always an important occasion.  This year, it had an extra special meaning.  Sandra decided to make an exceptional donation to Canterbury’s Capital Campaign in honour of her mother Olga Lentz on her 99th birthday which would have been on July 21, 2021.

On that special day, Sandra gifted Canterbury with a cheque that is part of the $25,000 total donation she will be giving them in memory of her late mother and father.

“It will be for one room dedicated with a plaque in the dementia unit, so I will give half of it this year, and half the next year on my mother’s 100th Birthday,” she says.

Sandra does not have a direct personal connection to Canterbury, but what led her to her thoughtful donation was an interesting path. The retired mother of two became familiar with Canterbury during walks over to her daughter’s home in the nearby neighbourhood of Laurier Heights. 

She was impressed with the facility’s size, the construction redevelopment, and overall reputation in the community of the quality of care offered. “During these visits, I used to tell the grandkids that I’d already chosen the place I’m going to next - I had it all picked out,” she says with a smile,“it would be in Canterbury and on the second floor with a balcony.”

Sandra also has a good friend with early-onset dementia who toured Canterbury and is on the waiting list to move in.  Her friend has worked in healthcare for many years and chose Canterbury because of the high excellence in care, and close proximity to where her own daughter lives too.

Sandra was interested in her friend’s choice and started researching the facility herself.  She signed up for the mailing list and started receiving the Canterbury newsletters.  She was impressed how Canterbury handled COVID with no outbreaks and took the opportunity to attend a zoom Town Hall meeting.  “I thought I’d listen in and see what it was all about.  And so I became familiar with the Capital Campaign fundraising initiative.  And the fact that you could make a donation for a specific room in the hospice or dementia wing – that really appealed to me.  I hadn’t given in the past, but when I saw you could make that type of donation, it seemed appropriate to go that route.”

Sandra’s valued donation to Canterbury is in memory of her parents Pete and Olga Lentz who lived in Ottawa.   Her father had vascular dementia and passed away quite a number of years ago after living in a nursing home there.  Olga also spent time in a senior’s residence for five years, but unfortunately, the family was not happy with how it was operated.  “It became quite apparent the difference between the for-profit and not-for-profit and government-run senior places, and it seemed very much like the not-for-profit ones did quite a bit better,” she says.

Sandra says she knows people in the community who have gone on to live at Canterbury and has only heard positive things about the facility and management.   She was also happy to hear they were going to integrate a hospice into the building.  “I feel strongly that we should be focusing on places that have transitional living,” she says.  “ I know from experiences of others that every time you move an elderly person, it is very disruptive and difficult,  and so to be able to move from independent living to assisted living to the end, whether it’s the dementia unit or long term or hospice care is very, very important. “

All this gave her incentive to make the $25,000 room dedication gift to the Canterbury Capital Campaign, in support of their new construction expansion, renovations and programs.  “I felt that, if we don’t donate to this sort of place, it won’t be there if we need it, or somebody we care about needs it,” she says.  “It wasn’t there for my parents, and I wish it had been different for them.  It wasn’t.”

Sandra’s siblings are very supportive of the donation and she knows her parents Pete and Olga would be so happy this gift in their name would help out other seniors living in not-for-profit care.

There is another valuable reason for Sandra to create this lasting legacy.  “My parents don’t have a headstone as their ashes are buried under a tree at my sister’s cottage in Ontario.  And so this dementia room dedication is a bit of a memorial for them, a tribute to them as well.  It’s something tangible that you can do as a remembrance of them, and it’s very satisfying.”

The next time Sandra visits with her daughter and grandchildren in Laurier Heights, their stroll past Canterbury will be an enlightening experience.  “It’s near; it’s accessible. And when I go by, I’ll know in my heart that I have contributed in some small way to this wonderful seniors’ facility and still have a special connection to my family.”