Haliburton Highlands Health Services Foundation has announced a new lead for its $4.3 million CT scanner and mammography unit fundraising campaign.

Executive director Melanie Klodt Wong said she is excited to welcome Tayce Wakefield, an experienced campaign volunteer and long-time resident of the Highlands, to the team. A cottager for more than 30 years and full-time resident since 2010, Wakefield said she’s looking forward to the challenge of leading local fundraising efforts.

“I have grown to love this community, but, like many people, I know there are a couple of things that need to improve to allow Haliburton to continue to grow and prosper – health care being one of the most important,” Wakefield said.

A past president and board member of the Kennisis Lake Cottage Owners Association, and founder of the Haliburton Pet Owners Assistance Fund, Wakefield is no stranger to local volunteerism. She has a considerable background in fundraising – in 1999 she served as co-chair of McMaster University’s ‘Changing Tomorrow Today’ campaign, which raised $100 million for infrastructure upgrades, program expansion and the creation of new student scholarships and bursaries.

Wakefield said her first task will be to build a “campaign cabinet” of people she can trust to help with community outreach.

She said for a project of this size in a relatively small community, it’s going to take considerable community buy-in to succeed.

“This is a huge campaign, aiming to raise $4.3 million. We’re going to need everyone’s support to make this happen. Local businesses have long been supporters, as well as groups of local people, but not everyone has been engaged thus far. My remit is to reach out more broadly, to get more people involved,” Wakefield said.

“To me, this is also about broadening the fundraiser base and building the foundation for the future. It’s about positioning the County to take steps forward, to continue to grow and improve healthcare services,” she added.

The Ministry of Health approved HHHS to purchase and operate a CT scanner and mammography unit in July 2023. County EMS chief Tim Waite said the news “was better than Christmas” for his department, noting the local paramedic service transports more than 350 patients a year to other hospitals outside the County for specialized diagnostic care. That represents over 2,000 hours that County ambulances spend outside the community.

Klodt Wong said, given the aging population in the Highlands along with the abundance of high-risk work and recreational activities in the area, having diagnostic services available close by will help provide quick diagnosis of critical illnesses and injuries.

She said information from diagnostic scans is sent to a specialized Picture Archiving Communications System, which stores them and allows specialists from across the province to securely evaluate them and provide diagnosis to staff in the Highlands.

Wong wouldn’t disclose how much had been raised thus far. The County of Haliburton signed off on a $1 million donation in December, while proceeds from the ‘Magic of Giving’ campaign over the holidays brought in more than $238,000.

After HHHS president and CEO Veronica Nelson told The Highlander late last year she hopes to have the machines installed and operational sometime this summer, Klodt Wong said she’d like to wrap up this campaign as quickly as possible. Wakefield said this is going to be her main priority moving forward.

“For everybody whose heart is in the Highlands, this campaign is for you. This equipment will be good for you and your family, and you will be glad to have it here,” she said. “We’re asking for your support to improve health care across the region for everyone.”

To donate, contact HHHS Foundation at 705-457-1580.