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Tuesday, November 28, 2023
Pedal Pushers fight ‘pandemic of loneliness’ for palliative patients
Ben Buholtz led the pack during Saturday's Pedal Pushers Challenge where walkers and bikers completed the trek in support of NOTL Palliative Care's new program named in his honour. Julia Sacco

Life with a serious illness takes a toll on more than just the body, says Jodey Porter.

Her husband, Ben Buholtz, suffered a stroke in 2022 and is now working through rehabilitation.

Constant medical attention is important, Porter says, but so is having people to people to visit him every now and then – to avoid what she calls a “pandemic of loneliness.”

“(Loneliness) kills people, not just mentally but physically. After you have an incident like Ben’s, so many people become shut-ins in long-term care with nobody to see them,” Porter said.

Providing a compassionate community for patients like Buholtz – people who don’t need hospital care but haven’t been diagnosed with a terminal illness – was the motivator behind NOTL Community Palliative Care’s annual fundraiser held on Saturday, the Healing Cycle Ride.

Participants cycled or walked the route in Niagara-on-the-Lake, starting at the former hospital site in Old Town, with the option of a 5K, 10K or 25K route that circled back to the starting point.

This year’s fundraiser, known as the Pedal Pushers Challenge, was about supporting the organization’s new program, Ben’s Compassionate Community (in honour of Buholtz).

Bonnie Bagnulo, the palliative care team’s executive director, said this program aims to help people such as Buholtz, whose situations are unique in a key way.

“Ben is not somebody who needs to be in the hospital. But he’s also not somebody with a palliative diagnosis: he’s sort of in the middle,” Bagnulo said. 

She said the new program is about providing aid at the onset of a serious, life-changing illness and providing care to as many people as possible.

“They were there during the hardest times,” Buholtz said about the palliative care team.

The program will fund a staff member to train volunteers to provide regular visits to those in this situation.

“This is about reaching those people in our community who get forgotten, pushed aside, get neglected,” she said.

While total donations will not be calculated until early October, Bagnulo estimated around $58,000 has been raised as of Wednesday. Bagnulo said the Hummel family will match donations up to $25,000 this year.

His donation matching helped raise $60,000 last year.

Bagnulo named this year’s ride the Hummel Family Healing Cycle Ride in honour of this generosity and continuous support for end-of-life care.

Porter extended her gratitude for the team’s services and for allowing a platform for Buholtz to share his story.

“He’s a beneficiary in terms of having a visitor and that’s very beautiful. For people to volunteer, to fund it and to understand it. It’s hard to understand something like this without a story,” she said.

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