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First-time fundraiser aimed at supporting victims of domestic violence and sexual assault

A fun, family-friendly fundraiser featuring live music, laid back vibes and outdoor activities galore is being held next month to help support an expansion planned for Bluewater Health’s sexual assault and domestic violence treatment centre as well as a brand-new space for the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Centre of Sarnia-Lambton.

The inaugural Sunday Fun Day will take place on Sunday, March 3 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Thedford’s picturesque Widder Station golf course.

The daytime event will include bonfires, warm drinks, a delectable meal, walking trails, family-oriented activities, and live music from a pair of powerhouse bands, The Feverish Lemons and A Mighty Fine Mess. Attendees are encouraged to dress up in warm flannel gear to enjoy a memorable and relaxing afternoon in the great outdoors with proceeds from the benefit split evenly between Bluewater Health’s sexual assault and domestic violence centre and the Sexual Assault Survivors Centre.

Bluewater Health Foundation executive director Kathy Alexander said the two groups hope to raise anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 from the first-ever event, with money going towards two significant projects: a major overhaul, expansion and relocation of the hospital’s sexual assault and domestic violence treatment centre, as well as support for the upcoming move of the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Centre to a new, larger, and more accessible location in downtown Sarnia.

“The redevelopment of the sexual assault and domestic violence program is an identified priority of the Bluewater Health Foundation, so our goal is to raise $600,000 and one of the ways we’re going to do that is through this really fun, new event Sunday Fun Day,” Alexander said. “It’s a partnership with one of our local community organizations that provides services to survivors, and we really wanted to highlight the importance of community collaboration.”

“The work at the hospital’s sexual assault and domestic violence program relies heavily on our partners in the community and vice-versa, so when we approached the survivors’ centre and asked them if they would consider and they very quickly said yes. We came up with this idea together with both organizations as well as a committee of volunteers.”

The treatment centre — which is located in a discreet space in the hospital to ensure the privacy of clients — is open 24-hours a day, seven days a week and has a staff of eight, said Carrie Gavigan, Bluewater Health’s director of emergency services and care transitions.

First established in 1987, the centre provides safe, timely and comprehensive care for those who have experienced sexual assault or domestic violence. In addition, it also offers a number of other critical services including miscarriage support, forensic support, assistance to victims of sex trafficking and bodily fluid exposures.

According to a Bluewater Health Foundation report, in 2022-23 the treatment centre was used by 43 victims of domestic violence, 42 victims of sexual assault, 70 follow-up patients which included multiple victims of sex trafficking as well as 12 children.

The upcoming relocation and renovation of the centre – which is expected to be completed by the fall of 2024 – reflects an increase in demand for its services, Gavigan said.

“We’re definitely outgrowing our space right now,” she said. “We’re a 24/7 centre that survivors can access and get timely and supportive care where we do refer out to community partners. It’s an inclusive, safe and discreet centre where patients know that they’re safe when they get there.

Our staff are very much waiting for and anticipating this move — it’s going to be in a more spacious, discreet, warm and comforting area, with a less clinical feel.”

“We know realistically that when survivors come to Bluewater Health first and foremost they’re probably afraid,” Alexander added. “So for them to be able to know that they’re walking into a space with warm, comfortable, non-sterile feel with comforting, exceptionally caring and specially trained staff who will help them during a very, very precarious time for them, I think that is important.”

“We really wish the service didn’t need to exist in our community, but the reality is that it does need to exist, so we want to make sure that this safe space is available to survivors, a place where they feel listened to, heard and protected.”

As for the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Centre of Sarnia-Lambton – an organization which has provided a wide range of support, programming and assistance for victims of sexual assault and sexual abuse over the past four-plus decades, including counselling, information and advocacy services - executive director Chantal Butterfield said that money raised from the upcoming fundraiser will be used for its move and modernization from its current East Street location to a new facility on Christina Street.

Partnering up with Bluewater Health was a no-brainer, Butterfield said, as the organizations have collaborated together for many years.

“Community partnerships for our organization are incredibly important, and Bluewater Health has been a large supporter of the centre for quite a few years,” she said. “We have a really great working relationship with them that’s been longstanding, so when they told us they were moving and found out we were also moving…they suggested we do the fundraiser together because we’re don’t want to compete for funds in the community and we work together anyways, so let’s join forces and see where it takes us.”

Money is needed to outfit and refurbish the organization’s new space, which also needs to be customized in order to protect clients’ privacy and confidentiality, Butterfield said.

“There’s a lot of infrastructure costs that aren’t funded by our ministry partners, so that means we have to be creative and look for grants that are specific to infrastructure,” she said. “Fundraising money will help us with the cost of the move. (We received) a Canadian Women’s Foundation that covers a portion of our move, but expenses are going to outweigh what that grant allows for, that’s why we have to fundraise.”

“We’re very happy with the new space…we’ve moved to the heart of downtown, so our clients are thrilled about it.”

While both organizations deal with a serious, somber, and ongoing problem in Sarnia-Lambton, Butterfield hopes that attendees to Sunday Fun Day can simply sit back and spend a few hours basking in the sunshine.

“We’re really trying to focus this event on having fun,” she said. “The work that we do is heavy and we want people to come out and see that spending time with us, laughing and listening to music and sitting by the fire, that can be a totally new form of therapy and self-care for them.

And it doesn’t have to be heavy just because it’s funding something that could have potentially impacted their life. The events and the social aspect of it and the connections are opportunities for us and our clients to see us as more than just counsellors.”

Alexander said the first-time fundraiser will also raise awareness in the community about both organizations, which is a very positive thing.

“The more that we talk about it in our community that these services exist, the better it is,” she said. “Yes, people know that we offer this service and people know that the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Centre offer their services, but the more frequently talk about it the more likely they are to access these services.”

“This is a first-time event, it’s a fun event, but at the end of the day we’ll also have pamphlets available, we’re going to have information and staff from our program and the SASC there to answer questions.”

Tickets for Sunday Fun Day fundraiser are available at

A shuttle service from Sarnia is available at additional cost.

Bluewater Health Foundation is also raising money for its sexual assault and domestic violence treatment centre via an online lottery at

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