Dec­o­rat­ing for a Cause

Ottawa Business Journal - Ottawa at Home - - GIVING BACK LILLIAN SMITH - Photography by MARK HOLLERON

When Lil­lian Smith pro­posed a fresh new fundrais­ing ini­tia­tive to her col­leagues on the board of The Hospice at May Court in 2002, she wasn’t sure what kind of re­ac­tion her am­bi­tious plan might gen­er­ate.

“I had been think­ing about a fundrais­ing strat­egy that would not only pro­vide sig­nif­i­cant rev­enue but also raise aware­ness of the hospice,” she re­calls. “I knew that it had to be some­thing that would at­tract a lot of peo­ple and me­dia at­ten­tion if it was to sur­vive as a long-term fundraiser, since hospice care is not high on peo­ples’ pri­or­ity un­til the ser­vice is re­quired.”

But de­spite that self-im­posed tall or­der, Lil­lian felt she had found ex­actly the right fit: An event that was mak­ing waves in sev­eral North Amer­i­can cities by show­cas­ing beau­ti­ful homes dec­o­rated for the hol­i­days.

So con­fi­dent was she about the po­ten­tial for suc­cess that she guar­an­teed it would raise $40,000 for The Hospice at May Court in its first year. Luck­ily for her, it did that and more, rais­ing a grand to­tal of $85,000 and set­ting the stage for what has be­come one of Ot­tawa’s most ea­gerly an­tic­i­pated and wildly pop­u­lar an­nual fundrais­ing ini­tia­tives – Homes for the Hol­i­days.

Not only does the tour of­fer a glimpse into some of Ot­tawa’s most stun­ning houses decked out in all their glory, it also ben­e­fits a cause whose im­por­tance ev­ery­one can un­der­stand – pal­lia­tive care.

“It is so im­por­tant that we have the op­tion to die with dig­nity,” says Lil­lian. “If you can’t be at home, and many can’t, then The Hospice at May Court is the next best thing.”

And while the hundreds of vol­un­teers who help make Homes for the Hol­i­days a suc­cess hold a very spe­cial place in Lil­lian’s heart, she has equal ad­mi­ra­tion for the peo­ple who do­nate their houses and time to make the event mem­o­rable.

“The home­own­ers are so gen­er­ous,” en­thuses Lil­lian. “They put up with al­most a week of their homes be­ing taken over, but just as re­mark­able are the num­ber of peo­ple who do all the dec­o­rat­ing at their own ex­pense,” she con­tin­ues. “All of these peo­ple give of their time and their pri­vacy to al­low us to raise these funds.”

Af­ter al­most a decade of watch­ing Homes for the Hol­i­days grow, Lil­lian ad­mits that Christ­mas now comes early for her. “The very fact that The Hospice at May Court is alive and well and pro­vid­ing such a vi­tal ser­vice is the best gift of all for me.”

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