The Chilliwack Hospice Society Hoedown includes live music, a mechanical bull, a pulled pork buffet dinner, and auctions. (File photo)

Hoedown stitched together with volunteer efforts

Chilliwack Hospice Society grateful for the time and energy expended by volunteers

By the time the guests arrive at the Hospice Hoedown on March 9, everything will be perfectly in place.

The decor will provide a rural backdrop to the fundraising evening. The pulled pork will be simmering and ready to serve. The band will be ready to rock. And this year, the Chilliwack Hospice Society is giving special thanks to those people who step up in the weeks and days before the Hoedown, and throughout the night.

“These are people who silently help us,” says Stephanie Johnson, events manager for the Hospice Society. “These are people who just show up, and set up.”

Without them, their services, and their time, the Hoedown would not be as financially successful as it’s been, she says. One of this year’s contributors is the carving team, brothers Ken and Earl Martin from Hope. They will be creating two chainsaw carvings outside of the event’s venue, the Evergreen Hall, throughout the day before the Hoedown.

“It’s going to be another event in itself,” Johnson says. But it will carry on into the evening as those two carvings are auctioned off. Johnson has no idea what the carvings will be of, as it will depend on log availability on stock.

“This is going to be a surprise for us,” she says, and she invites the general public to visit Evergreen Hall throughout the day to watch the carving and learn more about the Chilliwack Hospice Society. This carving demo and auction is going to be the first for the brothers, as they plan on traveling across Canada to do similar charity events, Johnson noted.

The carvings are just two of the items to be auctioned off, by auctioneer Bill Ellis. There will also be a silent auction with donated items.

Photography is also a big part of the Hoedown this year. There will be a photo booth, with a backdrop provided by local amateur photographer William Snow. Johnson had put a call out on a photography-focused Facebook page called The Good Life in Chilliwack. They received so many photographs, she decided to incorporate many of them into a slideshow that will play throughout the night.

After further discussions with Johnson, Snow and his wife Connie Snow volunteered their time to take photographs for guests in the photo booth itself.

Johnson said she’s been overwhelmed with how giving people are when it comes to helping the Hospice put on their events. Former executive director Liz Lynch, an accomplished photographer and former publisher of The Progress, is also donating her time in the days before to take photos of the volunteers.

Local realtor Scott Hrusik has lended his truck to Hospice for all their events for the year.

And then there are the perennial groups of volunteers. The Chilliwack Players Guild provides the Hoedown with volunteers throughout the event, serving as greeters, decorating, and much more for the Hoedown and the annual gala.

“The Players Guild comes to every one of our events, gets in costume and greets and seats our guests,” she says.

Normally, the Chilliwack Chiefs would also be on hand to move some of the heavier items around and tearing down after the event. But this year, they’re in the playoffs and their game may interfere with their ability to help out. So, this year, Chances Chilliwack has offered up five employees to fill the Chiefs’ spot so they focus on winning games.

And that decor? It’s as authentic it comes. The Atchelitz Thresherman’s Museum throws open their gates for the Hospice, allowing them to take any items they like to decorate the Evergreen Hall for the Hoedown.

“So, saddles and farming equipment, they just allow us to borrow anything,” Johnson says. “And someone else has donated hay bales for us, for the photo booth.”

Of course, a party wouldn’t be a party without music and food. The bands Horsepower and Concrete Jungle have been donating their time to the Hoedown for years, she says. And while Johnston’s is a regular financial sponsor, they go above that commitment by providing meat to the caterers. This year, they’ll be donating enough pork butts to feed 300 people.

Last but not least, Johnson notes the Hospice’s own army of volunteers work for days before any event to pull it all together, throughout the evening, and into the following day to clean up.

“And we have to have a shout out for Trevor McDonald,” adds current executive director Sue Attrill. He will be the emcee for the night, pulling all those little bits together in his usual smooth style.

Everyone who donates and volunteers does so because Hospice has helped them or a friend, or a family member cope with grief, end of life care issues, and more.

While the evening is a great party complete with a mechanical bull to ride, Attrill says, it’s also a time to help the Society continue providing these services to Chilliwack and Agassiz area families.

There are still a few tickets available for the Hoedown, at $50 a person. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 604-795-4660.

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