What Wellspring Calgary is all about

By Rita Gore – YMCA Volunteer Writer

Most of us know someone who’s had to deal with a cancer diagnosis.  We’re familiar with the Tom Baker Cancer Centre, rides like the Enbridge Ride to Conquer cancer or the September Terry Fox runs or the Sistership Dragonboat team which does its dryland training from the Eau Claire YMCA.

Sometimes during or after treatment though, people look for another kind of support, for what somemight call the emotional, psychological and practical side of things.

What many of us don’t realize is that there is a beautiful residence known as Wellspring
Calgary at 1404 Home Road N.W. which offers such support, free of charge. It’s
a non-profit and receives no government funding.

Wellspring Calgary is a centre that responds to anyone living with cancer, both the person that has been diagnosed and their caregiver, at any point during their cancer
journey for any type of cancer.

To showcase its programs to the whole community, Wellspring Calgary annually hosts a TriWellathon. At this one day event, registrants can participate in 3 of the courses delivered daily at the centre.

These range from yoga and dance, to tai chi, qi gong, art classes or meditation. It’s a great
first step to explore programs, meet facilitators and raise public awareness.

Last year, an employee with the City of Calgary’s staff Wellness program described her triWellathon experience this way:

“This is incredible, not only does it help you understand how Wellspring Calgary might be beneficial but it’s truly about looking after your own body, mind, and spirit. It’s a great opportunity for people to think about their own wellness too.”

When Wellspring Calgary opened its doors in 2007 it was the first and only centre of its kind in western Canada. This year with over 2000 registered members, who’ve logged
19000 hours of programming; it’s now the busiest too.

The support provided is meant to address the unique non-medical needs that cancer presents. This approach, plus the fact that all of the resources are under one roof makes the centre unique says Executive Director Patti Morris.

“Another factor making us unique is that our philosophy from the start has been one of
collaboration to both avoid duplication and to ensure a patient-centred
response. We are proud that there are many other wonderful resources in the
city and we have worked hard to build relationships with them” says Morris.

“I think there is some nice synergy between for example, us and the psychosocial team at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre” says Morris.”Our work complements one another’s, ultimately providing more for those living with cancer.”

Wellspring Calgary was begun by three cancer survivors Barbara Cunnings-Versaevel,
Rita Egizii, and John Stephure, each on separate personal journeys but sharing
a parallel experience.

While each received wonderful medical care, all three found they benefitted from accessing some other resources helpful to them as they moved through that cancer journey. Once back on their feet, each one had a dream about making these supportive programs available to other people.

After researching existing resources together, they discovered Wellspring which originated in eastern Canada about 20 years ago. It was created by a patient and her

“Each Wellspring has is its own independent, charitable organization but we are affiliated with other Wellspring centres. Thus we are able to benefit from the wisdom that they’ve amassed over 20 years and the programs that have developed” says Morris.

Programs like Return to Work or Money Matters, a program which is just being launched at Wellspring Calgary. Hiking, tai chi, yoga, exercise, painting, peer support and a speaker’s series are others.

Morris points out that “During a time when people feel they have little control, a place like
Wellspring is uniquely able to listen and respond to what we hear people saying
they want. But there is also recognition that this important wisdom of people
that are on this journey can be shared with one another and with professionals.
It is the basis for patient centred care.”

Patient centered care says Morris is a philosophy that recognizes it is important to listen to
patients about their experience.

“When we are able to do that and when people in the medical community are able to do that, there’s actually both medical benefit and an economic benefit because people feel
heard. There’s recognition that engaging patients in design and delivery of
services has a positive impact on our healthcare system.”

It fits with the Wellspring Calgary philosophy too.

“Because we rely heavily on volunteers as well as the people we contract to lead courses, there is  recognition that if there is a time when people feel that they would like to give back they can; that is a part of that healing process too” says Morris.

Morris also sits on Cancer Bridges, led by Dr. Janine Giese-Davis; it’s a survivorship-focused research and resource-sharing hub, which Morris describes as a wonderful tool for
sharing information about resources across the province for cancer survivors.

Another collaboration says Morris, is with the U of C Faculty of Kinesiology.

“We are pleased to have their doctoral students lead our exercise classes. We in turn make space available for them to do their Yoga Thrive program here. Dr Culos-Reed and her doctoral students lead our exercise classes and speak at Wellspring Calgary; and they in turn share information about us at their presentations they do. It is a really nice back
and forth.”

The 2013 Tri-Wellathon which happens Sunday, September 22, will provide a wonderful
hands-on experience for all Calgary and area residents. Participation in the
event, not only promotes good self-care; it gives our community an opportunity
to show support for Wellspring Calgary.

Every $30 registration fee goes straight to Wellspring Calgary as do all of the funds
raised. Last year, the average fundraiser, brought in $400.

“So many people are looking for a way to support people diagnosed with cancer. With the triWellathon there is a direct correlation between your donation and what you see the donations going toward” says Events Coordinator Heather Dougall.

“At Wellspring Calgary; we are changing people’s lives for the better and we are helping people get back to work, healthier, viable members of the community.”

Running the triWELLathon outdoors, in the park near Wellspring Calgary Dougall says is an obvious way to showcase its programs to the public.

She sees it as an opportunity for people to “challenge themselves, their own mind, body and spirit but also to understand the difference Wellspring Calgary is making in people’s lives.

I’m a Wellspring volunteer and encourage anyone to drop in for a tour and see  the beautiful, unique facility Wellspring Calgary. Consider participating on September 22 in the triWellathon; I’m registered, and hope other Calgarians will consider signing up too. www.wellspringcalgary.ca