Prince Edward County Cattlemen’s Association
By Lilian Schaer
Picton – A desire to give back to a community that supported them in their time of need led to a fundraising campaign by local beef farmers that has raised $70,000 for a cardiac rehabilitation program in Picton.
The donation by the Prince Edward County Cattlemen’s Association was instrumental in helping to establish an outpatient rehabilitation program with the Prince Edward Family Health Team – only the fourth such program in eastern Ontario – for people recovering from heart disease or cardiac surgery. Previously, patients had to travel as far as Kingston or Ottawa to access treatment.
“Canadians really helped out beef farmers during BSE by supporting us and continuing to eat beef, so as a group, we really wanted to do something to give back,” said campaign chair John Hancock, referring to the 2003 discovery of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy in a Canadian beef animal that resulted in borders being shut to Canada’s beef exports.
The group had long held a steer show at the Prince Edward County fair and used the proceeds to support youth-oriented activities, such as local 4-H beef clubs and educational scholarships. But with 2012 marking the 10th anniversary of show, they wanted to do something bigger that would have a longer lasting impact on their local community.
“We wanted to do something that would benefit everybody in the area and we found out that the family health team was establishing a cardiac rehabilitation program in Picton,” says Hancock. “They had some funding to cover part-time staff but not equipment, which they thought would cost about $50,000. We’d been raising about $5000 every year, so this was a challenge, but we decided to go for it.”
The group knew they’d have to do more than just a steer show to raise the money, so they planned two additional fundraising events. Local corporate sponsors, who were already supporters of the steer show, quickly stepped up with sponsorships as seed money to get the campaign off the ground.
The first event was a locally catered beef dinner that attracted over 200 guests. This was followed later in the summer by a gala dinner and auction at a local winery featuring items donated by the community, which Hancock says was a tremendous success.
“We raised about $25,000 at that auction. We got started with a few people who had the right spirit and it was phenomenal the response we got. We sold a cherry pie, a cake and lemon squares for $500 each,” he says.
To kick things up a notch at the steer show, the organising committee decided to auction off a celebrity steer. Sid the Steer was a hit – a group of local doctors banded together to buy him for $10,000 – and their 2012 show was the most successful yet.
“We were actually able to donate $70,000, so this is very much a success story. Farmers were brought to the forefront and we were able to show that they’re a big part of this community,” says Hancock. “We had a core group of about 10 beef farming families who were involved but really, we were just the engine that drove it. We gave the idea and facilitated the opportunity, but it was the tremendous support of our community and our corporate supporters that made this happen.”
The cardiac rehabilitation program in Picton has really made a difference in people’s lives since it’s been up and running, added Hancock. Before the program was established, only a very small percentage of the approximately 1000 or more people in the area eligible for rehab care were actually able to access it.
“Since we’ve had the program, numerous people have said that this program has saved their life,” he says. “It’s fantastic to have this resource in our community and it was really rewarding to have been a part of getting it here.”
Their cardiac rehab campaign earned the Prince Edward County Cattlemen a beef promotion award from the Ontario Cattlemen’s Association this winter. They’re committed to continuing their fundraising efforts and expect to make a decision shortly about their activities for 2013.
This article is one in a series of profiles on Ontario farmers produced by Farm & Food Care Ontario.