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Cancer Survivor Garden arch finds forever home at St. Joseph’s Hospital

The Cancer Survivor Garden Arch was a part of the Relay for Life when the event was held in Estevan, and now it has found its way to St. Joseph's Hospital.

ESTEVAN - The Estevan Relay for Life – a large-scale event that raised well over a million dollars for the Canadian Cancer Society to help fight this never-sleeping disease – has been in the books for several years now.

But a beautiful reminder of the great work accomplished by local volunteers and the community has recently found its forever home.

The Cancer Survivor Garden arch was installed Aug. 17 at St. Joseph's Hospital's back entrance on the west side of the building close to the ambulance bay. This beautiful piece that was used for years during the Estevan Relays for Life to celebrate local cancer survivors will now be a part of décor in a peaceful little rest area.

People involved with the Estevan Relay for Life and the arch gathered at the hospital to mark the moment and just enjoy the new look of the piece that carries so many memories.

The arch was created by KRJ, and Pat Steinke, who was the Estevan Relay for Life event co-chairperson in 2007 and 2008, said when approached, KRJ owner Randy Franke didn't hesitate to get on board with the project.

"We like doing stuff for the community and it was a good cause. My grandpa passed away from cancer, and we've got a couple of friends that had fought with it. It definitely affects everybody around, so it was a good cause and it's good for the community," Franke said, sharing memories about how he got involved.

Back in the day, Candy Smyth, chairwoman of the Cancer Survivor committee, spotted the idea at Regina's Pasqua Hospital and brought it back to Estevan and then to Franke. He added his vision to the piece, and after going back and forth with the committee, they came up with a beautiful blue metal arch.

The piece was built in the mid-2000s and was used during annual Relay for Life events.

"We put it up during the Relay for Life. Survivors went there and they were able to have pictures taken. And we also had a survivor tent," Smyth recalled.

Relay for Life events were a big success and a very busy event, so the survivor tent and Cancer Survivor Garden with an arch, suggested by Smyth, allowed for a quiet place where people could reflect, share their journeys and remember their loved ones.

"The relay was wild and crazy. Those first years, we would have probably 50 or 60 teams of 10 people per team. So the Comp. school became a little town. It was just wild," Steinke recalled. "And Candy felt that it would be nice to have a calm, quiet place, set off the beaten track. That was a tent. And we had a fountain and some benches. And [Candy] would go around and take pictures of every survivor that was participating in the relay. And they would be mounted. And it was just a quiet place where they could go. Or people could go and remember somebody. She did really work hard."

Smyth was vital in organizing the garden and tent, and had her team participating, while also going through chemo several times during the Estevan Relay for Life’s history. So she knew first-hand what cancer was and how important it was to keep the progress going, making treatment more efficient and also more accessible for people in rural areas.

When the big fundraisers wrapped up in 2015, the arch along with other items used for the event were placed in a storage sea can, donated by Dayman Trucking, and stayed there until this spring, when Steinke reached out to St. Joseph's Hospital executive director Greg Hoffort about the arch.

"He said this is where it belongs, this should be its home. Then within about 24 hours Greg phoned me and said, 'Can you get the arch to KRJ? They are ready to revamp it so that it can be put in permanently," Steinke recalled.

Franke said with the amount of work and number of projects KRJ has been involved with throughout these years, he almost forgot about the arch. But he was happy to learn that the piece will see a new life, continuing to serve the cause. He did some touch-ups on the arch and changed the bottom of it so it could be cemented in and become a permanent installation. 

"It's nice to see it out and have a place like that," Franke said.

Katie Bell, the chemo ward manager at St. Joseph's Hospital, said that for them it's really important to be able to continue improving the services they provide to local patients.

"It's great [that] we've been able to provide more care and accessibility for patients in this area to be able to have treatment, so they can be closer to their homes, closer to their families and not have to go all the way to Regina," Bell said.

Money raised through Estevan and other Relays for Life events across the country were directed to the Canadian Cancer Society to continue the fight against cancer. But what was raised in Saskatchewan, stayed in the province, Steinke said.

"[With] Relay for Life, 100 per cent of the money we raised stayed in Saskatchewan. And that was one of the reasons why most of us really worked hard at it," Steinke said.

Now, that the arch found its forever home, the hospital will take care of the garden around it. They also welcome other community members to donate towards the development of this peaceful corner of the grounds.

"Someone has donated a bench. And if other people are like-minded, maybe someday a fountain could go in or a couple more benches or anything to make it the Survivors' Garden," Steinke said.

"We would like to see more being added to it. If anybody would like to donate a basket of flowers or planters, or a few families wanted to buy a fountain or whatever," Smyth added.

If willing to donate to the Cancer Survivor Garden, people can reach out to St. Joseph's Hospital Foundation.

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