Laura Butler, executive director of the Ridge Meadows Hospital Foundation, with equipment purchased for the hospital. (Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS)

Laura Butler, executive director of the Ridge Meadows Hospital Foundation, with equipment purchased for the hospital. (Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS)

OCOP: Dollars saves lives

Ridge Meadows Hospital Foundation executive director loves raising money for a great cause.

The next in a series of profiles that appear in Our Community, Our People, a special publication by the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News.

Laura Butler holds up her arm to show the goosebumps that are forming as she thinks back to the last Ridge Meadows Hospital Foundation gala.

The room has gone dark at the 28th annual fundraising event and a video presentation is playing about the value of a piece of cardiac monitoring equipment that is needed at the hospital.

Local restaurant owner Mario Bitoiu has also shared his own personal experience after having a heart attack on his way home from work.

After the presentation, the lights go up a bit and the audience is asked who would like to make a donation.

“Even talking about it gives me the tingles,” laughed Butler, who said that hands went up throughout the room at Meadow Gardens Golf Club.

“By the time we’re finished, three minutes, a five-minute video and a three-minute ask for donations, we’ve raised $42,000 to buy this piece of equipment right there in this little room,” said Butler.

“This is very cool,” added the newly appointed executive director of the foundation.

Butler moved to Maple Ridge from North Vancouver in 1994 when the youngest of her two children was just a baby.

She was originally a stay-at-home mother, but went back to school when her children got older.

Butler took the medical office assistant training program at Ridge Meadows College and started working at a doctor’s office, where she stayed for five years.

In 2002, a part-time position became available at Ridge Meadow Hospital, where she set up the outpatients psychiatry program.

Then in 2005, she was hired by the foundation.

Originally, Butler started at the front desk, processing donations and speaking with donors. Over time, she was organizing fundraising events like the annual gala and the Fund Run.

“The board really took a chance on me,” said Butler, whose fundraising experience prior to being hired at the foundation included pub nights to raise money for school sports and selling raffle tickets.

“I didn’t have the fundraising experience, but I think I had that personality, the people skills,” she added, saying that she has always been a person who could talk to anybody and find a connection.

Butler took some BCIT courses in the fundraising management program.

“It was interesting because, all of a sudden, all of the lights came on. Now I understand why we do that. Or that makes perfect sense to me,” said Butler.

The foundation raises money specifically to purchase equipment for the hospital, but over the years Butler and the foundation team have started to push boundaries.

“We started realizing it was more and more health care that was happening in the community outside the four walls of the hospital, so we started looking into other opportunities to support health care,” explainded Butler.

“That’s when we looked at funding programs that encouraged healthy living and providing education and research opportunities and some of those other things that didn’t mean, ‘Here’s $70,000, let’s buy an ultrasound,,” she said.

Butler took over the executive director position of the foundation as of July 1, 2017.

She thinks one of the biggest challenges the foundation has in the future is getting the people who work and use the equipment at the hospital to understand where it comes from.

“I don’t mean this disparagingly. They come to work and they do their jobs, the equipment is here, they just, heads down, they do their jobs, save lives, go home, deal with their own family,” said Butler.

She wants to get the message across that the portable ultrasound just used in emergency didn’t magically appear. That it was purchased by the foundation and that it was purchased with donor dollars, those who give $5 a month and those that give $50 a month or more.

“The community understands what we do,” said Butler.

“They know if they donate or they purchase tickets or they come to this event, that all supports the work that we do for the hospital,” she said.

The foundation just finished partnering with Fraser Health for the 2West Renovation project, giving $765,000 to help with the renovation.

At least 75 per cent of the equipment that is purchased for the hospital comes from donated dollars to the Foundation.

Every year the foundation makes up a wish worth more than $500,000 in equipment, and every year it is covered.

This years list is $576,100 to purchase 21 pieces of equipment for the hospital with the remaining money going towards grants.

Outside of work, Butler takes the time to volunteer in the community. She takes on a couple of Salvation Army Kettle shifts every year before Christmas, she helps out at Help Portrait, an event that gives free family portraits to people in need, and she helps out at Operation Red Nose, the holiday ride service.

She also sits on the board for the local arts council.

Most notably, though, Butler has been donating her stool to patients suffering from clostridium difficile infection, most commonly known as C. difficile.

C. difficile is a bacteria that causes diarrhea and other intestinal conditions, such as pseudomembranous colitis, or inflammation of the colon, and can be fatal.

Ridge Meadows Hospital is the only one in Fraser Health currently performing fecal transplants, and Butler is one of only two accepted donors there.

Butler’s prime goal now as executive director of the foundation is to continue to build connections with donors and understand their stories. She wants to listen to what’s important to them and find ways to partner with them for health care in the community.

“It’s really about those relationships with our donors and our community and making sure the hospital has everything that it needs,” said Butler, who truly believes that donating dollars saves lives.