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.