Canuck Place Provides Much-Needed Services for Families on a Difficult Journey

Canuck Place became North America’s first free-standing children’s hospice when it opened its doors in November 1995. “It started with one child and one family, and now we have over 670 children and family members in the program,” says Debbie Butt, Director of Marketing Communications at Canuck Place.

dashboard photo

Now, the hospice, located in Vancouver, is entering its 21st year of paediatric palliative care for children with life threatening illnesses and their families. “We provide complex medical care, counselling and recreation therapy to support families during a difficult journey, and help them live in the moment to the best of their abilities.”

Canuck Place has nine patient beds and four family suites, so families can stay together in the house as they face the day-to-day challenges of dealing with a sick child. Canuck Place is also focused on helping families outside Vancouver with services such as mobile clinical care. The team is available 24 hours a day through nursing and physician hotlines, so families in Northern British Columbia and other rural areas can reach out over the phone.

Six percent of the hospice’s operating costs are covered by Canucks for Kids, the charitable arm of the Vancouver Canucks hockey team, and 20% of the costs are covered by the government, while additional donors provide the remaining funds.

“We have a great network of corporate supporters, individuals and organizations that host events — even little kids doing birthday parties,” says Debbie. “We’re trying to build the best experience we possibly can for the donor, so they feel like they’ve been dealt with efficiently and feel gratitude from the organization. That’s why we call the process ‘donor love’. It’s really important to us as an organization.”

Canuck Place uses iPads to allow family members to communicate with one another via FaceTime and the team wanted to use the same technology at fundraising events and gala dinners. Debbie decided to use Square as a seamless way for gala guests to bid at auctions and make donations at events. It’s also important to ensure that guests are able to pay in a variety of ways. “That’s why Square makes sense,” she says.

“Square has really improved the guest experience at our galas,” adds Debbie. “It has also provided flexibility and given us the ability to host and support smaller events without the extended costs.” Previously, the team had to arrange for a Wi-Fi connection and spend a fortune renting traditional credit card terminals. Now raffles, payments, processing and reporting can be done through Square — with staff and volunteers working together on accounts. The all-in-one platform, and the ability to email receipts directly to donors, has made the process much smoother.

Events by Square allows Debbie and her team to be on the floor taking payments throughout the night, which improves the guest experience because there’s a sense of immediacy to it. “Their view of the organization improves as well because we’re making the transaction happen almost instantly, and they don’t have to stand around waiting,” she adds.

To learn more about Canuck Place’s gala events and other ways to help support the hospice, visit