How dedicated was Donald Outhouse to the VON’s annual walkathon?
Just ask Donna LeBlanc, one of his daughters, who was visiting her father in the hospital after he suddenly took ill this past winter.
Outhouse – who passed away March 18 – had done the VON’s annual fundraising walk for the past 44 years. He had planned on doing it again this year, but after getting sick and being hospitalized, he wondered what kind of shape he might be in when it came time to collect pledges.
It was January. The walk was still a few months away, but such was his commitment to the cause, he talked about it with LeBlanc.
“He said to me, ‘now Donna, I don’t know if I’m going to have the energy, come about April, to get all those sponsors for the VON,’” LeBlanc said, “so I knew it was on his mind. I said to him right away, ‘Dad, don’t worry about it.’”
She assured him that she and other family members would get sponsors, that they would take care of it.
Outhouse was 87 when he died last month. The VON is dedicating this year’s Yarmouth walkathon – scheduled for Saturday, May 25 – in his memory.
Sandra Hubbard-LeBlanc, program co-ordinator, community support services, VON Tri-County, says she hopes people will consider honouring Outhouse either by taking part in the walk or by making a donation in his memory to the VON.
The idea, she said, is “just to help carry his torch ... because we knew how much it meant to him.”
This is a milestone year for the VON walk as the event will be held for the 50th time.
Recalling how her father became involved in the walkathon, Donna LeBlanc remembers her and her sister Colleen deciding to do the event back in 1973 or ’74 or so. Outhouse wasn’t too worried about them doing it since they were old enough, but when his youngest daughter Mary decided she wanted to do it too, he wasn’t so sure.
“He said ‘uh-oh, I’m not sure she’s going to be able to do it,’” LeBlanc recalled, “because it was the big 12 miles back them.”
Driving his vehicle on the route the day of Mary’s walkathon debut, Outhouse saw she was okay. The next year he decided to walk with her. For Outhouse, walking for the VON became an annual tradition that lasted 44 years.
“My sister (Colleen), who’s only a year younger than me, we went to college and university and then left home,” LeBlanc said, “but we knew in May that Dad was always walking (for) the VON and we had to schedule stuff around that, and we also knew that we were going to sponsor him ... and if we could be home, we went home to walk with him.”
Outhouse had great respect for the nursing profession. His wife, Lorna, was a nurse and LeBlanc, who lives in Moncton, is a nurse.
“He took the VON and his fundraising for them very seriously and was always planning ahead,” LeBlanc said.
Although he walked and raised money for them for decades, it wasn’t until the last seven weeks of his life that he needed the VON, LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc says the VON helped make it possible for her father to return home.
“Because of them, because we were in partnership with them, he got to die a very dignified and peaceful death in his own home, with them helping us with palliative care,” she said. “This program is so essential. Everybody has the right to have a peaceful death and if they want to die at home and the family is up for that, then thank God for the VON, because we needed them and they were there.”
As for his longtime commitment to the VON walkathon, LeBlanc says her father likely would be glad to know that people are talking about the event, which this year reaches the half-century mark in its history.
“You know what?” she said. “He’d be smiling now because he’d be pretty happy about getting the PR for the VON.”