Hospital Foundation executive director will be missed

Jodi Schellenberg
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Victoria Hospital Foundation executive director Rob Dalziel announced his retirement this week.

Victoria Hospital Foundation executive director Rob Dalziel announced his retirement this week. He has been working at the foundation for 14 years and will be missed by the staff and board.

It’s been 14 years since Dalziel started at the foundation, but his passion for the job has never waned.

Dalziel and his wife moved to Prince Albert after their children had moved away from home. They thought it would be a good fit since they both grew up in the area.

Soon after moving back to his hometown, Dalziel found a job with the Hospital Foundation.

“I was looking for an opportunity and my background has largely been with non-profit organizations,” Dalziel said.

In the past, he was involved with organizations like Tourism Saskatchewan and the Regina Chamber of Commerce.

“I kind of fell into a career path, if you will, where you are working with volunteer boards, not for profit or charitable organizations and this came available,” he said.

The foundation has changed quite a bit since Dalziel started in 1999.

“It actually started in 1985 and I was fortunate that I inherited the genesis of a pretty good organization,” Dalziel said. “Stan Danbrook, who sadly passed away a few years ago, really did a great job with it.”

There were opportunities for change when Dalziel started and he took on the challenge.

“I was challenged by the board in 1999 to help them take the foundation’s fundraising abilities to the next level,” Dalziel said. “That meant we had to do some different things, do some new things and stop doing some things that didn’t have the return on investment in terms of what our mission and our goal is.”

During his time at the foundation, Dalziel helped raise more than $10 million for the Victoria Hospital.

“It is really about the donors -- they have donated over $10 million to the hospital and that is significant,” Dalziel said.

Prince Albert and area does not have any major industries, so to raise that much money is a great achievement for the citizens.

“The community has done well and are very, very generous, not only in supporting the hospital and the different campaigns and projects we have done over the years, but they are also very generous supporting other projects around the community,” Dalziel said.

Throughout the years, Dalziel has been on the front lines of the foundation, preparing numerous fundraising campaigns from the annual golf tournament to the weekly bingo.

“Each one has its own high point -- each one is a milestone in our journey to help the hospital,” Dalziel said. “It always amazes me, the generosity of this area of the province and some astounding generosity from people who aren’t necessarily in a position to do the kinds of things they do … At the end of the day, it is the patients that benefit and people, I think, understand that.”

Even though there is always support from the community, Dalziel said he has faced some challenges.

“Some of the target areas where the health region has asked us to help raise funds for haven’t been that glamourous or it has been a complicated message to deliver to the community,” Dalziel said. “We have been able to find the right words to package the campaign in the right way that excites people and paints a kind of a vision of what does the stuff do, why do we need it and if we get it, how will it make it better?”

Bringing in the right equipment does a lot for the hospital, he said.

“When you have some of the right equipment it is sometimes easier to attract good people or keep good people,” Dalziel said. “It has been a building block process and it has all been very strategic. Each thing happens at the right time for the right reason.”

There have been a lot of amazing stories Dalziel has witnessed while working.

“There is not an area of the hospital that we haven’t been able to help in the last 14 years,” Dalziel said. “Every campaign has its moments.”

One campaign he remembers clearly is when they were raising money for a digital mammogram unit.

“We had an individual and he had recently lost his wife to breast cancer,” Dalziel said. “He took it upon himself -- he lived in cottage country at one of the lakes -- he went up and down the streets, going door-to-door canvassing to raise money for Give a Little Life Day.

“I thought ‘This guy hasn’t even had time to grieve. This is how he is grieving,’” he added. “It was very touching.”

There have been many other stories similar to that, where a family member wants to help out with an equipment campaign to minimize the impact of a disease or get early diagnosis because it has affected their family.

“There have been so many of those types of stories, so touching, so giving and so caring,” Dalziel said. “It is lots of hard work, it is very challenging, but it can be tremendously rewarding and fulfilling in a sense of accomplishment.”

Although he is going to miss working at the foundation, Dalziel said it was the right time for him to retire. His last day will be March 31.

“I looked at the horizon and what it is coming down the road -- I turned 65 in January and I thought if I stay another year or two and then leave, we are sort of at the foot of the next big mountain that the foundation has to climb,” Dalziel said. “I thought that is not fair to the foundation and it is not fair to me.”

He took a lot of factors under consideration and decided at the end of this month was the right time to leave.

“Like many other businesses and charities, we have busy times and not so busy times and this is the right time of the year,” Dalziel said. “It gives our board a chance to follow through on the search process, which they are already doing, to select the right candidate for the right reasons and hopefully have that individual in place this year.”

Hospital Foundation board chair Steve Suchorab said they are already looking for a new executive director.

“We are in the process right now of looking for a new executive director and hopefully he or she can … fill his shoes,” Suchorab said. “We will be very lucky if we can find someone to Rob’s standards. It will be great big shoes but at the same time, I think we are looking forward to working with a new executive director and I am sure he or she is going to bring in new ideas.”

Dalziel is going to miss a lot of things when he officially retires.

“No two days are ever the same,” Dalziel said. “I am the kind of person that I like a lot activity going on, I like challenges, so I am kind of an A-type personality anyway.”

He said the thing he will miss most is the people he has worked with throughout the years.

“We have had great staff here at the foundation and an outstanding board of directors that guide what we do here in the office,” Dalziel said. “Our board has a lot of reach into and out of the community. They have a lot of insight and have been great for advice and guidance.”

Not only will he miss the staff and board, he will also miss the donors.

“There are just some amazing people we have had the opportunity to work with over the years,” Dalziel said. “Some are big donors, some are modest donors, some are anonymous donors we deal with on a regular basis, but are just some amazing individuals, groups and organizations and companies that step up to help build this community and build better health care for this area.”

He and his wife plan to do a little bit of travelling and spend a lot of time at their cabin at the lake.

“We like Prince Albert, we like cottage country and we have friends and family here so we are not going to be far away,” Dalziel said. “Between my wife and I, we are involved in a lot of other things in the community and I think in our own way we will continue to be helpful to the foundation, but remain involved in a lot of other things we are active with as well in the community.”

Dalziel will still be around to help the foundation until a new executive director is found.

“I have said to the staff and the board in the interim I will not be far away if they need something, that we will figure out a way for that to get done,” Dalziel said. “We are not going to abandon them, so to speak, but there comes a time and now is the right time.”

The board is also going to miss Dalziel’s presence at the foundation.

“I am sorry to see him go, because he was very important to the Hospital Foundation,” Suchorab said. “At the same time, I am happy he is going to be able to enjoy his retirement.”

For the last 14 years, Dalziel has been a fixture at the foundation.

“He has been instrumental in growing the foundation to what it is today,” Suchorab said. “Since I have been on the foundation committee for the last five years, I have been totally impressed with the work he has done and how he has handled things. He has always kept an even keel and never got too excited or too down. He has kept things going and I have been impressed to say the least.”

Since the Hospital Foundation works closely with the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region, CEO Cecile Hunt said they will also miss Dalziel.

“I believe I speak on behalf of the board of directors and our senior management team (when I say) we see this announcement of Rob’s retirement with mixed feelings,” Hunt said. “We wish him all the very best, to him and his wife, as he enters retirement but we are very sorrowful to see such a successful supporter of the foundation and the health region leave.”

Hunt said Dalziel has demonstrated great leadership and helped the health region a lot through his fundraising efforts to purchase new equipment for the hospital.

“He certainly will leave big shoes to fill but we wish him all the very best in his retirement.”

Organizations: Hospital Foundation, Prince Albert, Tourism Saskatchewan Regina Chamber of Commerce Victoria Hospital

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