Ron Antalek has a heart for Maple Ridge, and the people who – together – make it beat.
He has a particular pulse for the hospital, which he grew up being around and wants to watch grow more.
He’s had a big part in that so far.
The gala event marked the latter organization’s 40th anniversary, and the 25th year of the award – a significance not lost on Antalek, who’s been on the hospital foundation board since 2009.
In that time he’s been part of efforts to expand the ambulatory and emergency wards, and open a new psychiatry unit, named after his family. In 2006, he made a donation to the hospital foundation, to be directed to mental health.
The psychiatry unit has 20 beds and helps redirect congestion from the emergency ward.
“It’s helped all of the hospital,” Antalek said.
The foundation, among its many contributions, also helped put in place a nurse practitioner at the Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries shelter.
Antalek was nominated for Citizen of the Year along with Pat Smith, past president of the Chamber of Commerce and Maple Ridge Community Foundation, and Marie Spetch, who volunteers at Ridge Meadows Hospital, with the hospice society and is the Sunshine Lady at Greystone Manor.
The purpose of the Citizen of the Year award is to recognize and honour a dedicated individual who has made outstanding volunteer contributions to enhance the quality of life in Maple Ridge or to enhance the image of the city in the larger community.
Antalek was also nominated for his work with Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Community Services, Cythera Transition House Society and Ridge Meadows Hospice Society. He’s also coached community and school sports, among other volunteer efforts.
He is grateful and proud to be the 25th Citizen of the Year.
“I am among so many amazing people in this community,” he said. “To be recognized, to me, is just one of the most special recognitions I’ve ever had.”
Jan Hickman, with the Maple Ridge Community Foundation, said all three nominees were deserving of the award.
“Ron, you are truly a treasure in our community and a very generous spirit who we are fortunate to have among us.”
Antalek, 53, was born and raised in Maple Ridge. His mother Rose was a registered nurse at Ridge Meadows Hospital, which opened in 1958. His father Lou was a psychiatric nurse at Riverview Hospital. As a child he would visit his father’s work, known to him then as Essondale, and what he witnessed left an indelible mark, one that eventually led to his contribution to Ridge Meadows Hospital.
“It was a very different delivery of care then,” he said, some of it involving shock therapy.
Antalek attended Glenwood elementary, then Westview and Maple Ridge secondary schools. He graduated from Simon Fraser University with a teaching degree, then taught at St. Patrick’s School and Golden Ears elementary in Maple Ridge.
It was at the latter where he instituted recycling and other environmental programs, such as a partnership with the Bell-Irving Fish Hatchery to release coho salmon fry and paint yellow figures of fish on the asphalt by storm sewer grates. He and his students hatched quails in a classroom incubator each year, built a salamander aviary, and fed “Fritz the Rat” lunch scraps – peanut butter sandwich crusts, apple cores and leftover granola bars. He also integrated special needs students from the neighboring Arthur Peake Centre into his classrooms, adding a teacher’s aid the help smoothen the transition for them.
Antalek has a passion for youth and learning and cherished his years in the classroom, but eventually left to join his father and sister Louise in real estate.
His father passed away several years ago, followed by his mother, who came to rest at Ridge Meadows Hospital after “a long, courageous fight against colon cancer.” His grandmother, Julia Antalek, also passed away there, at 97, after receiving great care.
Antalek is grateful for such care. Without the hospital, residents would have had to leave the community to receive it, and family would have to travel to support them.
Antalek believes Ridge Meadows Hospital is a jewel the community should cherish and strive to maintain, which is the work of the hospital foundation.
It was incorporated in 1985 and over the years has raised more than $22.5 million to fund health care equipment and services at the hospital and its related buildings.
The equipment purchased replaces worn or outdated devices or is new to support technology and medical procedures.
The new ambulatory care department was completed and began service in January 2009. The foundation raised $3 million towards its total construction cost of $20.9 million.
This year the foundation is renovating 2 West, which Antalek said had not been refurbished since the wing opened 35 years ago.
The renovations cost $794,000 and include a new nursing station, care rooms and bathrooms.
The foundation’s next goal, he added, is a MRI machine.
Maple Ridge isn’t a large enough community for which Fraser Health would consider purchasing such a machine. But the foundation can raise the money – through its various events and campaigns – to buy one.
It needs Fraser Health, however, to pay for its ongoing operation.
Such partnerships need to be nurtured, and Antalek said the foundation’s relationship with Fraser Health is strong.
The hospital foundation’s next major event is the Fund Run, on June 5 at Fairview elementary.
On Oct. 15, it will host its annual gala.
In April, its third annual spin-a-thon, involving stationary bikes, raised $5,000.
All the events require volunteers, like Antalek, to make them a success.
And it is those volunteers, he believes, that Maple Ridge a special place – a place where he is raising his family.
Getting involved and helping out, for him, became infectious, a passion.
He believes it is for others, also.
Through the hospital foundation, he and others are mentoring youth to become the next generation to give back.
“To carry the vision forward.”
To become the heartbeat of the community.
The Maple Ridge Community Foundation attracts and manages charitable capital and provides grants for the betterment of the community.
Since 1976, it has awarded thousands of dollars in grants to a wide range of registered charities.
Currently, the foundation is conducting the 2540 campaign, recognizing the anniversary of the group’s formation and that of the citizen of the year award.
On Saturday, Ron and Alma Jones agreed to match donations to the campaign up to $50,000.
Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read and her husband Steve donated $2,540.
It is the foundation’s goal to grow its endowment fund from $850,000 to more than $1 million. Interest from that fund goes to grants for community groups and projects.
The foundation is also hosting its annual golf tournament, Community FORE Charity Golf, on June 13. For more information, call 604-454-7961 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.