Heartfelt Thanks to our Volunteers

This year, as in many years past, our passionate and skilled volunteers have contributed countless hours towards the work of Hospice Yukon. Our volunteers help in myriad ways… they are part of all of our programs and services, and also help out ‘behind the scenes’. The following are some of the important ways they contribute:

  • they facilitate spring and fall walking groups in all types of weather
  • host ‘lunch’n’learns’ for caregivers of young children facing grief
  • facilitate opportunities for kids to create something in honor of their loved ones
  • provide public education about grief and self care
  • facilitate groups that provide a range of ways for people to process grief and mourn their losses: discussion groups, journal groups, poetry groups, and art groups
  • sit vigil with our elders in their last weeks and days of life
  • offer healing and relaxing energy therapy through Healing Touch
  • offer each other the opportunity to learn together, share a meal and recharge
  • do the ‘behind the scenes’ work that keeps everything running smoothly: laundry, baking, building desks, hanging curtains, fixing things, yardwork and so much more.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but a small glimpse into the nature of our volunteers who our integral to the Hospice community. We thank them all. ❤

New Resources for Pet Loss

Pets are treasured members of the family. Whether the main companion to someone who lives alone, or a four-legged member of a big family, our pets are important. They are sensitive to our moods, make us laugh with their antics, they get us out for fresh air, and they are an endless source of physical and emotional affection.  Its no wonder that when they die they leave a huge hole in our lives and in our hearts.

The death of a pet can be devastating. Studies have shown that the grief we experience when a pet dies can be as intense as the loss of an important human relationship. Yet many grieving pet owners experience what we call ‘disenfranchised grief’: grief that isn’t validated by society or those closest to us. It makes us feel isolated at a time we are most in need of connection and support.

Knowing what a difficult time this can be and seeing it first-hand with our clients, we saw the need for more specific resources to support people experiencing this particular kind of loss. We are pleased to have two new resources about Pet Loss, both published this year by Hospice Yukon.

The first is an easy-to-read pamphlet called “When Your Pet Dies”. It offers a simple explanation the grief process, information about pet loss specifically and ideas of how to support yourself and others in this situation, including children and surviving pets.

The second is our newsletter on Pet Loss that came out this past spring. It contains some beautiful articles written by local pet owners on some of the specific things they did to mourn and honour the lives of their beloved animals. There’s also a helpful article by a local veterinarian about how and when to make the difficult decision to euthanize a pet.

Both of these resources are available at Hospice Yukon, and have also been distributed to Alpine Vet, All Paws, C and D Feeds, Duffy’s Pets, and The Feed Store in Whitehorse. The pet loss newsletter is also available online through our website.

Hospice also carries Feelie Hearts to honour pet loss. Some contain dog fur, others are sewn part way, leaving an opening for a pet owner to include the fur or hair of their own beloved animal companion. These can be a thoughtful offering to someone who has recently lost pet or is anticipating the death of a pet.


Hospice Board update

The health of any organization can be measured by the strength of its leadership and governance. Hospice Yukon is fortunate in having had a long history of skilled and passionate board members guiding the ways in which we fulfill our mandate.

At our AGM in May of this year there were some changes to our Board of Directors. Two Board Members moved on and we welcomed several new Members.

With the new season of programming now underway its a good time to introduce our current Board of Directors of both new and longstanding members. Read on to learn a bit about who they are and what brought them to serve with Hospice Yukon…

Patricia McGarr

Patricia and her husband Greg

“I have lived in the Yukon for 35 years with my husband. I have two children in their twenties, both of whom come and go to Whitehorse, depending on the season, and work and education situations. I am a registered nurse with a clinical background in oncology, palliative care and home care. My history with Hospice Yukon goes back to its founding days when I was on the Planning Committee, then the Board and then served as it’s second Program Co-ordinator in the early 90’s. My Governance/Board experience was honed with 17 years as E.D. of the Yukon Registered Nurses Association. It is a great pleasure and privilege to be involved with Hospice Yukon once more.”

Mary Martin

Mary Martin

“I have lived in the Yukon for over 30 years, working as a data analyst for YG and as a librarian in different libraries in Whitehorse.

After a long hiatus from serving on boards I am happy to join Hospice Yukon. Although I’ve had no prior experience with Hospice, I am happy to join the Hospice Yukon Board of Directors because of what a well loved and respected organization it is. I look forward to supporting the work of the dedicated staff and volunteers who are the heart and soul of this organization.”

Heather McFadgen

Heather MacFadgen

“I am a Cape Bretoner and retired lawyer who has worked on human rights, equality and social justice throughout my career. I think dying with dignity and caring support is an important part of our human rights which are with us  right to the end of our lives.

I have been coming to the Lights of Life ceremony almost every year since my family moved to the Yukon in the early 90’s, sometimes singing through tears as a member of the Persephones. This beautiful and meaningful ceremony has helped me through a series of losses that always seem more poignant at Christmas. Volunteering in my community has always been an important and fulfilling part of my life. Becoming a Hospice Yukon Board Member has been a small but satisfying way to give back to this caring and supportive organization that has helped so many of us work through grief, loss and dying.”

Val Pike

Val Pike

“My story is similar to many other Yukoners’. I arrived in 1979 to work at Whitehorse General Hospital as an RN on the medical ward. Met my husband a few weeks later…fast forward 40 years: married with 5 grown children, three of whom live in Whitehorse. I worked my entire career as a nurse at WGH in a variety of positions. Retired 5 years ago and now have more time to quilt, knit, stay active and volunteer in the community, such as Run for Mom, Mardi Bra, Arctic Winter Games and the PARTY Program (Prevent Alcohol and Risk Related Trauma in Youth).

As a founding member of Hospice Yukon more than 30 years ago, it gives me great pleasure to be on the Board once again. It is especially rewarding because of the growth this organization has seen and what Hospice Yukon means to the health of our community.  Our dedicated volunteers and staff really embrace the concept of healthy grieving. It is truly an honour to be considered part of this amazing team.”

Alex Kmet

Alex Kmet

“I first moved to Yukon in 2014 from Alberta, making Whitehorse my home and place of work as a physician in Family Practice, Anaesthesia and Palliative Care.

As a physician with a focus on supporting the dying and their loved ones, Hospice Yukon is an organization dear to my heart for the invaluable service it provides to Yukoners.”


We are grateful to these Directors for sharing their skill and passion to help guide Hospice Yukon. Thank you!

Hospice Welcomes New Volunteers

Volunteers are truly at the heart of many of the programs we offer at Hospice Yukon. Our vigil program, Healing Touch program, grief groups, and many of our public education programs rely heavily on the involvement of volunteers to offer these supports to our community.

This fall and into the winter we are looking forward to training a new intake of Hospice Yukon volunteers. They have just completed their first training session and will have several more group sessions in addition to independent studying between now and the new year. This an exciting time for us an organization. The diverse skills and experiences of our volunteers bring so much to the programs we offer, and often bring the spark of inspiration needed in developing a new grief group. Our volunteers come from a wide range of ages and backgrounds, and it is always a privilege to get to know them and the valuable skills they bring to their volunteer roles.

Some of the books our new volunteers will be reading from during their training.

Training a new intake of volunteers is an investment of time and energy for the new volunteers, as well as for Hospice; we run a volunteer training only every year or two.*  While we teach some core skills and information at each volunteer intake, we also continually change and update the training based on emerging trends in grief support and palliative support. Carlie, our Program Manager, is working hard on the curriculum to engage our new group of volunteers on a wide range of topics. Each new intake of volunteers learns so much together.

After completing their training this fall/winter, each new volunteer will complete some ‘shadow sessions’ with an experienced Hospice volunteer or staff member to gain experience and comfort in the program they will be volunteering in. New volunteers who are interested in our Healing Touch program have already completed their Level 1 Healing Touch course this fall as part of their Hospice training.

Our volunteers are an integral part of our team. We look forward to getting to know each of our new volunteers throughout this fall and winter and welcoming them into our vibrant Hospice Yukon community. Starting later in the new year look for some new faces helping out with our programs, and please thank them for sharing of themselves. They are really at the heart of what we do.

*The intake for this round of Volunteer Training (Fall 2019/Winter 2020) is now closed.  If you are interested in finding out more about volunteering: the application process and screening process, please email Hospice Yukon


30 years and Going Strong

This year Hospice Yukon celebrates 30 years of providing compassionate support to Yukoners at end of life and in grief. So much has happened in these 3 decades… thousands of Yukoners have been supported through the variety of programs and services that have been offered over the years. So much growth and change has happened. We spoke with with one of the earliest founders of Hospice Yukon, Jackie MacLaren, about the early days and how it all began…

In 1988 the Hospice Yukon Board of Directors received funding from the health investment fund to send two Yukoners, Sandy Baran and Jackie MacLaren, to mentor with the Hospice Victoria volunteer training program with a view to training volunteers to offer Hospice supports in Whitehorse. After completing their mentorship Sandy and Jackie trained the first round of volunteers in 1989, officially marking the beginning of Hospice Yukon services.

Barb Evans-Ehricht, the first Program Coordinator for Hospice Yukon

After the initial round of volunteers were trained, the Board hired Barb Evans-Ehricht as the first program coordinator. She paired volunteers with palliative or bereaved clients, offering Hospice Yukon’s first services in the community. Over the years a variety of different programs have been offered, including different kinds of grief support groups, educational programs, and one-on-one supports. We make our best efforts to have our programs and services reflect the needs we see in the community. In the past few years this has meant a shift towards expanding our public education programs and supporting loss in the workplace. Our staple supports: counselling, Healing Touch, grief groups, and vigiling remain important and well-used services.

Jackie MacLaren (and volunteer Hanna Hoefs) at a recent Lights of Life event. Jackie still volunteers as a tree sitter…30 years and counting!

Lights of Life is a tradition that stems back to the earliest days at Hospice Yukon. Sandy and Jackie learned about the Lights of life tradition through Hospice Victoria and felt it would be a good fit in the Yukon. The first Lights of Life was held in 1989 at Horwoods Mall with just one tree. That first year it was loaded with tags and Hospice Yukon has never looked back. Lights of Life is now one of our best-known programs and can be found at many locations in Whitehorse as well as in most Yukon communities.

Looking back over the last 30 years, plenty of things have changed: some of our programs, our location (though we’ve been at our current location for half of that time), staff and volunteers (although we have had many very long-standing volunteers, Board members and staff over the years).

And what has stayed the same? The immense caring capacity of our volunteers, staff and board members and the high quality of compassionate care we offer Yukoners. Also, importantly, consistent financial support from Yukon Government has remained a reliable presence through all of Hospice Yukon’s years of operation. This has allowed us to focus our efforts on the programs and services we offer rather than on raising funds for our operating costs.

We have lots to celebrate! We hope you will join us for our Open House to commemorate Hospice Yukon’s 30 year anniversary on Wednesday October 30th between 11am and 2pm at Hospice House at 409 Jarvis Street.