Love was in the air at Andy’s House this Valentine’s Day, but credit can’t go to cupid this time as artist Kimberly Rideout revealed her second donated mural in the halls of the hospice facility.
Rideout originally painted a mural at Andy’s House, a residential hospice in Port Carling, in the spring of 2021. She did it to thank the community for its support during her cancer treatment, and she’s donated several other murals since. When she heard about Hospice Muskoka’s plans to create a pediatric palliative care room at the hospice, she reached out in hopes of painting its walls. The room already had wallpaper put up, so the team at the hospice asked her to beautify the room’s entryway.
“The theme is magical Muskoka, and so I tucked in lots of little hidden things for the kids and the family members,” Rideout said. “If they’re in the hallway there, they could sit in front of it for quite a while and just stare at it and try and find all the different things.”
Before the reveal, staff, residents, friends and family waited down the hall near Rideout’s first mural. Once she was ready, everyone made their way to the entry of the pediatric room, oohing and awing as the curtain came down.
From fairies hidden in flowers to fireflies and butterflies flitting about, the mural captures fantasy and the real-life magic of nature. A textured tree wraps around the door and out into the hallway, which displays a serene landscape with a far-off castle and a gentle waterfall.
“I wanted to keep it natural looking and have some elements that were sort of fun and interesting for the kids but still make it appealing for the adults,” she said. “It’s hard to say this, but the purpose of that room is for children that are at the end of their journey. My hope was, with putting the castle in the clouds, to have it like there’s a magical, hopeful something beautiful that exists in the clouds for them.”
Despite being the artist, the reveal was Rideout’s first time seeing the completed piece all at once. She worked behind a curtain starting on Feb. 12, completing the mural in a matter of days with only a few lamps and flashlights to light her space. She said it was neat to finally step back and see it as a whole on the day of the reveal.
She wants to thank Quinn Spencer, manager of the Bracebridge Home Depot, for donating materials for this mural as well as several others. She knows how much support Hospice Muskoka needs, financially and otherwise, to continue offering the services they do, so she hopes the mural will remind people of how important it is to donate money and time to causes like Andy’s House.
As much as the artwork is for the future children in the pediatric palliative care room, it’s also for the staff at Andy’s House in general, Rideout said. She hopes it’s a reminder for them every day of just how amazing they are.
“They are just such an incredible group of people that have such incredibly loving but also strong hearts,” she said. “I have nothing but the utmost respect for [personal support workers] and nursing staff and even the volunteers that go in there. That place is so filled with love.”
Sarah Hudson, clinical coordinator at Andy’s House, said it was special to have Rideout back for another reveal because it felt like a full-circle moment. The second mural is “breathtaking” just like the first, she said, which she always makes sure to feature during facility tours.
“It’s honestly a gift,” Hudson said. “It’s one of the pieces that as I walk through the halls and I am showing somebody the hospice itself, whether it be a family, a resident or a new team member, it’s actually part of my tour that I tell a little story about Kimberly and how we ended up with the mural and why it’s important to us.”
The new mural also coincides with exciting progress on the hospice’s new pediatric palliative care room. Though they don’t have an official opening date yet, the room is fully furnished thanks to the Anne Marie Bailey Fund based in British Columbia.
The fund was created by Bailey’s husband after her death to help terminally ill children. After the folks behind the fund heard about Hospice Muskoka’s pediatric room, they provided $20,000, which covered the majority of the costs to furnish and open it.
“We don’t have a current timeline on it yet,” Hudson said. “Everything is mostly set up in the room. We’re just making sure that our staff and the organization itself are ready to take on referrals so that when we do, it’s the smoothest process possible for those new clients.”
Seeing the room full of furniture and decor makes it more real that they’ll be able to open the room soon, she said. Though it’s heartwrenching to consider the end-of-life needs of children, the room will make the process easier on families and help other kids in need of transitional care.
If a local family has their child at a larger hospital like SickKids and needs nursing care to transition home, Andy’s House will be able to offer that care. In speaking with other hospices, the team found that many pediatric palliative care stays are respite stays to help parents and other family members get some rest.
“We know that taking care of somebody 24/7 is quite hard, and everybody needs a break at some point,” she said. “We can provide that break for those families if that’s something that they want, and then later down the road if they choose to use a hospice in their care plan, it’s not so scary because they’ve already been here before.”
Hudson said Hospice Muskoka is in a period of rapid growth, so she encourages locals to stay tuned for the opening of the pediatric room as well as other announcements coming soon. In the meantime, she and everyone else at Andy’s House will continue discovering every beautiful part of their new mural.
“I’m still finding little pieces of it every time I walk back there today,” she said. “Just the thought that you could create something magical for a child and their family in an awful time of their lives, it was kind of a beautiful thought that we could bring some magic back to people.”