Holly for Hospice

How a small wish has turned into big support for end-of-life care

Victoria resident, Lorraine Schoor, shares a beautiful story about how Gord’s Holly for Hospice came to be.

My connection to Hospice goes back quite a few years, I lost a cousin and then my older brother to cancer when they were both in their early fifties and they were both cared for at Victoria Hospice. Since then my family has contributed to Hospice through “The Cote Family Memorial Foundation”, which was set up in memory of my two brothers.

My own fundraiser Gord’s Holly for Hospice began in 2008 when my husband Gordie died. We lived in a little house in Gordon Head where we had a large holly tree in our backyard. We used to sit out on our back porch each night after dinner with a glass of wine chatting. Gordie was very much an entrepreneur and had had businesses in Victoria throughout his life, most recently Bridgewalker Gift Shop in the Harbour Towers Hotel which we ran together. We would look at the tree and Gordie always used to say that we should sell holly each year to earn a little extra money.

We had married in 2005, and in mid-2008 he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer which, before we knew it, had spread to his bones and was terminal. The news was devastating especially as we felt we had just started our lives together. Gord had spent time in hospital several times over the years and his dying wish was that he be able to remain at home. As I became the only wage earner in the family, it was really hard in the final weeks to work and manage his care.

We had a visit from Angela from Hospice, and she felt confident that with help from the home care team, we would be able to give Gordie his wish. Throughout his last days, with the help from many wonderful people from Hospice, we were successful in granting his wish. Nurses brought me all of the medications he needed injected, they called regularly to make sure I was coping, and especially they were available 24/7 when there was a crisis in the middle of the night. The day he passed away a whole group of “angels” descended from Hospice to be sure everything was taken care of.

There is no way I could have kept Gordie at home throughout those last days without the support of Hospice. It would have broken my heart if he had been in the hospital and perhaps I would not have been with him when he took his last breath.

The whole experience took its toll on me and for several months following Gord’s death I was quite sick and very depressed. Then as Christmas was approaching I thought of the holly tree. It didn’t take long before I decided that I would follow Gord’s wish and sell holly, but I would donate the proceeds to Hospice to help repay the great favour and cost of the care that had been given to Gord, myself and my family.

I started by refitting an old computer desk into a small roadside stand for the end of my driveway. I added a sign on the telephone pole advertising “Gord’s Holly for Hospice”. I did a small write-up on Gord and included it in the holly bags I put on the stand. The money started coming in just from random people walking down the street. A few days later, I had made myself a small Christmas centrepiece and took it to work to get some tips from my co-workers on improving it. No sooner had I walked in the door and someone asked me where I had gotten it from and I said I had made it. They asked if I would make one for them, and before I left work that day, I had several orders.

So, bags of holly soon turned into arrangements as well, and I found myself working each evening in piles of holly and cedar, making arrangements. The rest, as they say, is history. What started as a small idea, all of a sudden turned into something I would need help with. I arranged with Trevor at Bartlett Tree Experts to come and trim the holly tree, the Grounds Staff at UVIC to supply greenery, my sister Therese to make bows for the arrangements and my sister-in-law Jeanne to help make arrangements. All time and effort which was done as volunteers.

When I was delivering my donation money to the Victoria Hospice office a few years ago, I noticed my name on one of the donation boards. I also noticed that the next board was for donations of $10,000 and over. So that became my new goal. I am hoping that either this year, or in 2019, I will reach that goal, as I want to help other families who may find themselves in the same sad situation I had been in.

Although I still miss Gordie very much, I have had the very good fortune to have a wonderful family around me and recently a new partner to share my life with. I count my blessings for my life now, and also for the wonderful people from Victoria Hospice for helping me through what was the hardest time of my life. Gordie Schoor was a very inspirational person in a lot of lives and absolutely filled my life with happiness. He was kind, loving, funny, and generous to a fault. I am so grateful to him for inspiring me to turn such a sad time into a thing of goodness and joy!

Every year my home turns into a huge mess of holly, cedar and glitter, but it constantly reminds me that the best, happiest and most gratifying times we can have in life are when we can give a little something back. I thank Gordie for that lesson!!


Lorraine Schoor