Eisenhauer legacy donation supports health care in the Rainy River District

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

Riverside Foundation for Health Care is celebrating a significant legacy donation from a long-term supporter, as well as the huge impact it will have on health care in the District.

According to Foundation director Allison Cox, the Foundation was named in the estate of Olive Eisenhauer, who passed away last November. Olive and her late husband Ike were already celebrated at La Verendrye Hospital, having previously donated $50,000 across their lifetime. The Eisenhauers made a $25,000 during the Care Close to Home campaign, which in turn saw them receive naming rights to the chapel located inside the hospital. Their name still stands on a plaque outside the chapel, commemorating their charitable donation.

Sylvia Smeeth is the executor of Eisenhauer’s estate, and also Olive and Ike’s niece, and she shared that giving back to their communities was just something the Eisenhauers did throughout their lives, with many different charities and organizations finding themselves on the receiving end of the pair’s generosity.

“She was very wise with money,” Smeeth explained.

“Olive and Ike, they always donated very generously, that was always very important to them. Her brother said to me that one of her favourite charities growing up was the Salvation Army, so I think it was instilled in them during their younger years. Our local library has benefitted from their charitable donations over the years.”

In addition to helping to fund the chapel at La Verendrye, Smeeth said the pair were also responsible for additions to the CCU wing of the hospital. The churches they attended throughout their lives were also held near and dear to their hearts when it came time to donating, as Smeeth said the pair made sure to donate both to the Knox United Church in Fort Frances, as well as churches in communities they once lived in but had since left. Smeeth estimated that during any given year, Olive was making donations to anywhere between 25 and 30 charities, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Sick Kids lottery, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Diabetes Canada and more.

“Over all the years, she had her list and she donated very faithfully,” Smeeth said.

“It’s been going on for a lot of years. When I was helping her out in her earlier years, I’d be buying diapers so we could drop some off at the Salvation Army. She’d buy the expensive things. She’s been charitable for many years.”

The estate’s donation helps to ensure that everyone who needs to make use of diagnostic imaging technology at La Verendrye will get the best possible results, as the money will be going directly to the Foundation’s new ‘Picture This’ campaign. Cox noted the first portion of the legacy donation from the estate comes in at $420,000, with a bit more coming once the estate is finalized. The campaign was officially announced last week and is aiming to raise $1.5-million to help replace or update many of the machines that make up the hospital’s diagnostic imaging equipment.

“We are raising funds for new diagnostic imaging equipment,” Cox confirmed.

“That includes a new CT scanner that’s going to have the ability to do telestrokes, which our current CT scanner is not able to do, a new digital mammography machine, as well as an upgrade to our X-ray room, which is going to mean less radiation to the patients and the staff, up to 80 per cent less radiation exposure.”

While Cox said the current CT scanner and mammography machine have reached the end of their useful life span and must be replaced, the upgrades to the X-ray machines are software only, as they were purchased in 2005 and are in what Cox called “impeccable condition.”

The late Ike and Olive Eisenhauer have left a significant $420,000 legacy gift to Riverside Foundation for Health Care. The gift will enable the Foundation to kick-start its Picture This campaign. – Submitted photo

The Foundation sees legacy or planned donations similar in nature to this a few times a year, Cox said, but it’s much more rare for a donation in size like the Eisenhauer’s to be left. However, regardless of the size of the donation left to the Foundation, Cox stressed they are all always appreciated as they help to continue to deliver potentially life saving health care to the District.

“When we receive something of this nature, obviously it leaves such a legacy for that family to the Foundation,” she said.

“It’s a parting gift for their family, their friends and all residents of the community.”

The Eisenhauer’s donation to the Picture This campaign gives it a strong start, but there is still planning being done to bring more events to the District in order to help the Foundation reach its fundraising goal. Cox said the Foundation is currently working on gathering support in a behind-the-scenes capacity before the campaign is given its public launch, right now scheduled for September.

“The public launch will include, obviously depending on COVID protocols and restrictions at the time, some sort of public event,” Cox said.

“Fingers crossed by that time restrictions have been lifted somewhat and we can do something exciting across the entire district. We see everywhere else opening up so it would be nice if we could do a little bit more here as well.”

For more information about leaving a planned or legacy donation to the Riverside Foundation for Health Care, go to their website at riversidefoundation.ca or contact Allison Cox for a brochure at 274-4803.