Long connection inspires major gift by Friesen family

By Public Affairs | March 22, 2021

Vanessa Marshall (right) practicing her skills on fellow Therapist Assistant student Hannah Koch
Vanessa Marshall (right) practices her skills on fellow Therapist Assistant student Hannah Koch in the new Therapist Assistant Lab

A decades-long connection to Okanagan College and a desire to give back to community is inspiring a $150,000 donation by the Friesen family to the Okanagan College Foundation.

The family gift will support the Our Students, Your Health campaign to complete and equip the College’s new Health Sciences Centre on the Kelowna campus.

The gift reflects a strong connection to the College. Dianne Friesen worked at Okanagan College in the mid-1970s. In 1984, her husband Rod started Voyager RV and their son Jason who is running the business is grateful to be able to hire graduates from the College’s RV Technician program. Voyager RV also donated $30,000 to the College’s Bold Horizons campaign for a new Trades Training Complex.

Their latest gift will support the Therapist Assistant Lab, which educates students to work as an assistant to Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists and Recreational Therapists.

Therapist Assistants work in a variety of health-care settings from hospitals to rehab centres to seniors’ care homes. 

“As you get older you start thinking more about health care, and having it available in your city,” says Rod. “We’ve been fortunate to experience excellent care throughout our 47 years living here with our two sons and most of our grandchildren being born at Kelowna General Hospital.”

This gift comes from Rod and Dianne and their two sons, Shawn and Jason and their families.

Vanessa Marshall is a second-year Therapist Assistant student. Her class is the first to use the new Centre’s lab, with plans for the Centre to be fully operational and equipped for all health care students when they return to face-to-face classes in September.

“It’s clear to me that without support from individuals and families in the community, like the Friesens, the Therapist Assistant Lab would not be up to par to the extent that it is in the new Centre, especially with the new equipment that we’ve been graciously provided with this year,” says Marshall.

“I’m super grateful to have the learning space that we do and on behalf of all of the Therapist Assistant students I’d like to say a huge thank you to the Friesens.”

In recognition of this major capital gift, the Okanagan College Foundation is creating a $30,000 award fund to support students in the Therapist Assistant program. Three awards will be handed out annually to students enrolled in the two-year diploma program for the next five years. 

“We thank the Friesens for their longstanding support of education in our community,” says Helen Jackman, Okanagan College Foundation Executive Director.

“This generous donation will ensure our community’s reputation for quality health care continues with well-trained professionals learning in modern labs right here in Kelowna.”

“We realize just how important our health care workers are,” adds Dianne. “It’s a privilege to give back to the community that’s given so much to us.”

The Okanagan College Foundation is now $1.5 million away from meeting its fundraising goal for the Health Sciences Centre. The Foundation is calling on a different kind of health care hero to ensure students have access to the very best facilities and equipment in this much needed Centre.

To learn more or to donate, visit OurStudentsYourHealth.ca.

Tags: OC Foundation, Health Sciences Centre, Health and Social Development, Kelowna, Inside OC



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