ABOUT OUR CHARITY
"We believe the First Step to getting health care is the ability to get to the health care provider."
Mark and Linda Wilkoff, who live in St. Lunaire-Griquet NL, created First Step to advance access to health care by providing travel assistance to people living on the northern tip of Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula (NTNNP). To carry out its purpose of providing medical travel assistance, First Step will pay part of community members' medical travel expenses such as gasoline, meals, lodging and other expenses related to medical travel.
The Wilkoffs created First Step pursuant to the Canadian Income Tax Act and the Charities Registration Act. It is an official Canadian registered charity and will issue official donation receipts. The members of the First Step Board of Directors (BoD) are Kier Knudsen, Godfrey Mitchelmore, Michelle Shears-Rumbolt, George Smith, Brenda Whyatt, and Mark Wilkoff.
First Step provides assistance to people living in and around Goose Cove, St. Anthony, St. Anthony Bight, St. Carols, Great Brehat, Cook’s Harbour, Wild Bight, North Boat Harbour, Raleigh, Ship Cove, St. Lunaire-Griquet, Gunner’s Cove, Quirpon, Noddy Bay, Hay Cove, Straitsview, and L’Anse aux Meadows.
First Step is grounded in the belief that lack of resources should never obstruct access to necessary medical care. First Step will work with businesses, civic organizations, care providers, and individuals to raise money and provide travel assistance NTNNP residents in need.
The NTNNP is a geographically isolated part of the Newfoundland Labrador (NL) province. It is home to approximately 4,000 people. It includes all the surrounding communities from St. Anthony/Goose Cove to L’Anse aux Meadows to Boat Harbour/Cook’s Harbour. Labrador-Grenfell Health (LGH) provides primary and secondary health care to the area via a regional referral hospital in St. Anthony. Unfortunately, LGH's mandate does not allow it to provide tertiary care to the people of the NTNNP.
Because LGH's mandate limits it to primary and secondary care, people from the NTNNP often must travel to St. John’s, Corner Brook or outside NL to obtain necessary medical care. This travel is especially true for long term care for diseases such as cancer and major surgeries. Travel for medical care can last anywhere from a couple of days to weeks or months. Often patients (and their family) must make multiple trips in a single year. In total, there are likely more than a hundred medical trips from the NTNNP to St. John’s, Corner Brook and beyond each year for specialized medical care.
Medical care travel from the NTNNP is an expensive proposition (e.g. car expenses, lodging, meals, incidental costs, lost wages, et. al.). These expense can and frequently do exceed several thousand dollars for a single trip. This cost burden falls most heavily on those who can least afford it. It is not unusual to see some people from NTNNP forced to make the hard decision of whether to seek medical care or provide for their basic needs of shelter and food. The concept for First Step was born following a series of meetings over a couple of years with civic leaders, business people, health care providers, religious leaders and community members.
To provide the necessary travel assistance, First Step raises funds through a variety of events as well as direct solicitation. Fund raising activities include galas, concerts, craft fairs, bake sales, athletic events, meals/coffees/teas, and games. First Step uses all money it raises to help only those in the NTNNP.
"First Step is grounded in the belief that our people should never have to choose between food/shelter and access to necessary medical care."