It’s a lofty commitment, but the Nicola Valley Heath Care Endowment Foundation and Nicola Valley Health Care Auxiliary got a good head start Wednesday on their goal of raising nearly $700,000 for the new emergency room at the Nicola Valley Hospital currently under construction.

Local businessman Randy Ryzak, who owns the Corbett Lake Lodge,  handed the endowment foundation a cheque for $100,000 to put towards the project at a ground breaking ceremony last Wednesday (Aug. 30), making a significant dent in the funds left to raise.

“My wife Linda and I live in the community and we feel it’s a privilege to be able to make a donation to a good cause,” said Ryzak. “Hopefully we never have to use the facility.”

He said they felt the donation would bet a great way to kickstart the fundraising campaign.

Fundraising efforts for the hospital officially got underway last week, with others committing funds to the project during the ceremony.

“They’re starting to dig a hole, so we’re starting to raise money,” said Jerry Sanders, the vice chair for the Nicola Valley Health Care Endowment Foundation

Jim Adams, executive director of Scw’exmx Community Health Services personally donated $1,000 to the project, and the local rotary club donated $3,000 as well.

“In summary, we are going to contribute $550,000, the hospital auxiliary is going to contribute $100,000,” foundation vice chair Jerry Sanders told the Herald. “Those funds are going to equipment and supplies and furnishings — not bricks and mortar kind of stuff. This isn’t something new for the foundation, we’ve done this before with Gillis House. We’ve been anxiously awaiting the kickoff — it’s somewhat delayed, but it’s starting.”

Interior Health Board Chair John O’Fee said raising these funds will take “a broad community effort just like any major health care facility in any other community.”

He said Merritt is a community that’s proven itself capable of giving and asked members of the public to open their cheque books to donate some funds.

“This is for your community and its future, and your kids’ future. We don’t want anyone to ever have to rely on an emergency room, but you’re sure glad it’s there when you do need it,” said O’Fee.

Sanders said this is the largest fundraising campaign the foundation has taken on since he became a board member 25 years ago.

“The most recent one prior to this was Berta Fraser Centre at the Gillis House, and that was considerably less money, but it was in the neighbourhood of $300,000,” said Sanders.

Fundraising events for the ER expansion are currently in the works, he told the Herald.

“We’re planning a social — probably October — and that will be a wine and cheese kind of event. We might come up with some ideas about raising some funds at that event,” he said. “So far it’s just a wine and cheese social, and letting people know where we’re at. We’ll have some posters and that kind of thing set up.”

The hospital’s ER is being expanded from 100 square metres to approximately 500 square metres, and will include features such as a covered ambulance bay, a separate ambulance entrance, confidential triage and registration spaces and a new nurse station. The $6.5 million project is being funded primarily by the IHA and a $2.24 million contribution from the Thompson Regional Hospital District.   

Construction is in full swing as of last week, marking the start of what will be about a year of work before the expanded ER is complete.

“They’re starting to dig a hole, so we’re starting to raise money,” said Sanders.

To donate to the project visit