It was Chilliwack’s turn to welcome the Tour of Honour reps to town with a barbecue lunch.
Uniformed personnel and first responders of every description filled up the parking lot of Chilliwack Fire Hall #1 on Friday over the lunch hour to say hello and enjoy a burger.
The Tour of Honour motor home rolled into Chilliwack as part of its mission to visit 38 communities across B.C. this spring to raise the profile of Honour House, a heritage home to house personnel like emergency responders and military personnel who come down to Vancouver for medical treatment.
“It’s been great on this tour,” said New Westminster Fire Chief Tim Armstrong, a director of the Honour House Society.
“Every city we’ve rolled into has welcomed us warmly.”
First responders are more at risk of suffering Post Traumatic Stress and other mental health injuries, so Honour House offers a refuge with free accommodations for uniformed personnel and their families who leave their communities to get help or medical treatment.
“It’s one of those bittersweet things,” said Chief Armstrong. “We don’t want the house to be occupied, but it really helps anyone who has to come down and spend thousands on hotels. That can put extra stress on what is already a stressful situation.”
The Tour of Honour has been travelling the province since the Day of Mourning in April, visiting fire halls, RCMP detachments, paramedic stations, raising awareness about Honour House.
“Suffering from any form of serious illness or critical incident is a very stressful event in anyone’s life,” said Al DeGenova, President of Honour House Society.
First responders are workers who deal with some of the most tension-causing and stressful situations imaginable every day.
“Providing a free, safe, comfortable and relaxing home away from home for some of our bravest Canadians is the very least that we can do,” said DeGenova.
Honour House Society receives no direct funding and raises all of its operating costs through donations, sponsorship, and fundraising.
Honour House is similar in concept to the Ronald McDonald House, but it exists to serve first responders, veterans, corrections officers and military personnel.
The tagline for Honour House is: “Sometimes even heroes need a home.”
The house has one full-time manager, Craig Longstaff, and a part time staffer.
“It does come as quite a surprise speaking to some people when they find out they have a place to stay in Vancouver for free,” said Longstaff.
When someone has to travel from a great distance like Whitehorse or Williams Lake to get treatment, it can be costly and stressful with all the expenses.
“We want to help those folks that spend their time helping us,” Longstaff added. “The whole idea for Honour House was for it to be a place of calm and safety.”
Honour House has 10 bedrooms and they’re renovating soon to create an eleventh room. They’re also getting ready to open a second facility, Honour Ranch, a working 25-acre ranch, later this summer.