Now that’s a happy baby! Here baby Dakoda Jeffrey looks pretty happy with Mr. and Mrs. Claus during the Breakfast with Santa.

Ponoka’s Festival of Trees shows strong community support

The 5th edition of the Festival of Trees closes with residents showing their support of the hospital

Another year down and residents have shown they are big supporters of the Ponoka Hospital and Care Centre.

Through the work of the Ponoka Festival of Trees — now in its fifth edition — hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised to benefit the hospital’s needs. This year the focus was prenatal care.

Dr. Cayla Gilbert, speaking at the opening night gala Nov. 15, said there are two items that are important tools for obstetrical care. One is used while the mother is in labour, which allows her to move around while in the labour process while staff can monitor the baby.

“This is a huge thing for mom’s comfort and in fact it helps progress labour because mom can move around,” explained Gilbert.

The other is called a “newborn space lab” which Gilbert says is a monitoring system for a newborn. “It includes heart tracing. It allows us to measure their breathing.”

“This is especially important for babies who are sick,” she added.

For a small community, the space lab is an important part of patient care. Gilbert said in the last year the hospital has seen a fair amount of sick babies who have had to be transported out for a higher level of care.

The space lab ensures special monitoring so staff can pay close attention to the health needs of a baby.

Seeing these needed items set to come to Ponoka is an important part of rural health care. Gilbert says there are fewer babies being born in rural hospitals.

“There’s actually lots of data that shows outcomes are better when women can stay close to home,” she said, adding that Ponoka’s hospital continues to be a busy place for new babies.

For the Festival of Trees committee, it’s the folks in Ponoka town and county who make this such a great event, explained chairperson Sherry Gummow. Looking back at the last few years, she’s proud to see such needed items come to patients.

Along with getting new TVs for patients, units for the maternity ward, long term care improvements and support for the endoscopy department, the festival is the key piece in all of this. Gummow praised the committee members for their dedication.

She said a strong respect for each other, plus the many volunteers and volunteer hours put in for the fundraiser, are what make it so positive.

For Carol Wild, area manager, for the Ponoka Hospital and Care Centre, seeing the partnership between the Ponoka and District Health Foundation and Ponoka Festival of Trees, it’s a boon for the hospital.

“As a small site, the support from the community and our foundation is absolutely so great and beneficial,” said Wild.

Connie Sage, acute care manager, added she’s excited to be able to keep up to date on the best standards of health care for newborns.

“I think the community asks us to set the bar really high,” Wild added, when asked about the benefits of local fundraising groups.

Dorothy Ungstad, chairperson of the Ponoka and District Health Foundation where the money raised goes to, is grateful for such strong support from residents and businesses.

What happens next for the festival isn’t too clear, however, Gummow says she feels there is a desire to see the fundraising continue. Final dollars raised weren’t available at press time, however, a large cheque presentation is expected in the next few weeks.

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It was packed at the opening night Nov. 15 of the Ponoka Festival of Trees fundraising gala during the live auction, which saw thousands of dollars come in.

Auctioneer/bid-taker extraordinaire Dean Edge helps grab a few more dollars during the live auction gala while Dan Skeels auctioned off the donated items.

Sylvia Hitchcock and Rita Petersen have a good laugh during the Seniors Tea Nov. 16.

The Seniors Tea was a great way for friends to get together to enjoy some snacks, holiday music and to take a look at the beautifully decorated trees.

One of the fun additions to the Breakfast With Santa on the Saturday, Nov. 17 event was a small petting zoo. Here Isabelle Thompson enjoys a ride on a cute pony.

Taking time to pose with Santa is baby James Shelis with his aunt, Dorothy Engman.

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