Housewarmings – Holiday 2023 Newsletter

A Home Away From Home

Nicole Brooke and Iain Bowker on their flight home.We received a message in September from former guest Iain Bowker and his wife Nicole Brooke about her progress since leaving The Mark Preece Family House in July. They gave us their permission to share her story.

The Bowkers were in Canada for their wedding in Niagara Falls. Relatives flew in from around the world for Iain and Nicole’s nuptials. Iain and his parents were told of the House and they stayed while waiting for a diagnosis, treatment, and after a month, a medical flight all the way back to Australia.

I wanted to give you an update on Nicole and how she is progressing. I do apologise for taking so long to update you after the wonderful and kind way you all looked after the family and I. Unfortunately, things did not go quite as planned once we returned to Sydney (3 x code blue and a couple of unplanned trips back to ICU among other things) and it has taken us a while to process everything. However, Nicole is doing well now and will be moving to rehab unit for a week or two once a bed opens up.

Our flight back went smooth. We flew from Hamilton to Oakland, to Hawaii, to Kirribati to Fiji and then into Sydney arriving at 1am at Sydney International airport in the rain. We were met by an ambulance that transferred Nicole to ICU at St Vincent’s in central Sydney. Nicole was comfy throughout the flight and enjoyed looking out the window. They tried to sedate Nicole to help with the flight but then gave up once they were reaching elephant level tranquilizers. I think she was too excited to be going home. Only a couple of hiccups, I was nearly denied entry into the USA as they could not find my visa at first. Then in Kirribatti, the immigration people had gone home for the day, so we just refuelled and left. I did get to sit in the pilots’ seat for a couple of hours which was an amazing experience.

Nicole spent 4 days in ICU during which time they gave her a speaking valve for her trachy, debrided the skin on her left foot, and attached a wound vacuum with the plan to do a skin graft. Nicole was able to spend her 40th Birthday in her own room on a normal surgical ward. As part of her birthday celebration, she got to have real food for the first time as her doctors gave her a birthday cupcake to enjoy. The Frozen Pillowcase was also retired at this point. She spent around 10 -12 days recuperating on the ward during which time she was taken off O2 support, had her trach removed, and the wound on her left foot monitored. Dermatology eventually came to look at the wound/rash and they said they believe that it was pyoderma gangrenous.

Nicole Bowker OutsideNicole had a colonoscopy (that had been planned since April) in which they discovered she had a fistula between duodenum and the traverse colon with matter moving in both directions through it. A few hours after this procedure she had a heart incident, SVT that led her being shocked to get it back into rhythm and 2 days in ICU. She was moved to a cardio ward where she had another heart incident, but it was dealt with on the ward.

Nicole had an operation to deal with the fistula that had been found during the colonoscopy which led to a section of her colon being removed and the instillation of a colostomy bag. She is due to have the reversal procedure in January. A week after this operation, she had a split skin graft procedure done on her left foot with skin from her left thigh. Nicole had the last of the leads and tubes removed on the 28th of Aug and she ventured outside for the first time the following day. There were a few tears as she celebrated with a hot chocolate.

Over the last 10 days, she has improved very quickly and spent limited time with a walker before being able to walk short distances on her own. This has led her to discovering the locations of the ‘best’ vending machines in the hospital and wanting to get to rehab asap.

Throughout all she has gone through she has remained positive, happy and grateful to all the support she has received and the family to the Mark Preece staff for all their kindness and support. Nicole has seen a councillor a few times a week and they have been very happy with how she is doing. The hospital when possible have given her a window bed and even her own room which when moving between floors 7-10 has meant she has had some good views that has helped with her mental state. She will be having a follow up consultation regarding her heart sometime in the next few months and they will be also keeping an eye on her lungs as one looks abnormal on the scans but is clear according to the tests and bronchoscopy.

I am hoping that she will be home in the next couple of weeks and have fingers crossed that a bed will open soon in the rehab unit. I have attached a variety of pics form the last month and will send some more when she comes home and gets down to our beach.

Thank you once again for everything you did for me and the family.

Kind regards

Iain Bowker and Nicole Brooke


Nicole came home mid / late September where she carried on doing rehab with daily physio visits. Her mom came over from the USA for a 3 week visit to help look after her and fatten her up! She started full time work in November and is lucky enough to work from home so she can take extra breaks if needed. Still a few ongoing tests and an stoma reversal operation in January, but she is very much heading in the right direction and getting stronger all the time.

(NB – Andrew’s update is written in Australian English)

The Mark Preece Family House has provided a Home Away From Home for thousands of guests since its doors opened in 2011 and we couldn’t do any of it without the support of people like you.

Thyme4Dinner Is All About Community

Thyme4Dinner November 19Dozens of volunteers have come through the doors at The Mark Preece Family House over the past few months to prepare meals for our guests as part of our Thyme4Dinner program.
While some guests aren’t able to make it to dinner because they’re still with their loved ones, they always appreciate being able to enjoy leftovers later on for home cooked meal after a long, stressful day at the hospital.

The Rockton Lions Club and the Retired ICU Nurses of St. Joe’s Hospital have been providing meals on a monthly basis for years now and they plan to continue their tradition as regular providers at The Mark Preece Family House.

Marisa Mariella of Marisa’s Easy Kitchen and her team from the YMCA Newcomer Youth Mentorship Program are quickly becoming a favourite of guests as regular providers. Maria and her team have been coming on a monthly basis, sometimes twice per week, much to the delight of our guests. Especially when the youths prepare meals which our guests may not have ever experienced.

Thyme4Dinner September 27We have also had the pleasure of welcoming several new providers to provide delicious meals for our guests. Andrea Morrison and the CDR Programme at the Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre, The Battlefield New Horizons Seniors Club, and Our Lady of Assumption Catholic Church were among the new providers and their efforts were greatly appreciated.

Several guests have also provided meals for their fellow guests. For some, it was an important way to show their appreciation to The House for the support they have received, while for others, it was a way to help themselves.

Groups or individuals prepare a meal for approximately 20 – 25 individuals, either in our kitchen or theirs. We often have house food available for use or volunteers supply the items needed for their meal.

Are you or someone you know interested in volunteering for our Thyme4Dinner program?
You can volunteer once or on a more regular basis.
Contact us at or 905-529-0770 to learn more!

Fall For Beer Returns After 4-Year Hiatus!

More than 80 people came out to Shawn and Ed Brewing Co. in Dundas to celebrate the return of Fall For Beer.

Former guest Dennis Ensing spoke about his experiences at The House during his cancer treatments.

The Silent Auction at the event featured items like tickets to the 110th Grey Cup, a Cottage Package, tickets to see the Toronto Maple Leafs, a sailing charter with Niagara Nautico, and tickets to the CFL Alumni Association Legends Luncheon.

Become an Adopt-A-Day donor today!

You will receive recognition and a charitable receipt. Best of all, you’ll know you have helped to make someone’s day just a little brighter. For your $500 donation, you can recognize a birthday, anniversary or memorial message in honour of a loved one.

You Make It Into A Home For Those Who Stay With Us

Please allow me to extend an enthusiastic hello and my warmest regards. I’m Russ, the new Chair here on the Board at Mark Preece Family House. I’m heading into my fourth year with MPFH, having previously contributed as the Treasurer. This past summer I was elected to this role as Chair, and I couldn’t be more proud or honoured to be able to serve the House and its mission.

Since you last heard from us, things have continued a very positive and upward swing at the House. To date this year MFPH has served 509 families (a big jump over last year!), providing a sanctuary in Hamilton for those who have traveled here to be with loved ones seeking medical attention. Our occupancy – one measure of the success of our mission – has been high and stable this year. I’ve spent a lot of time at the House this past summer (trying to keep out of the way, of course!) and it has been an unbelievable joy to witness the difference made by our staff and volunteers to those guests who we serve.

And speaking of those volunteers, I thought it important to share that MPFH has benefited from almost 1,000 hours of volunteer time this year, donated by caring and passionate individuals who believe in the mission of the House. We couldn’t do what we do without them, and I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to all of our volunteers on behalf of the Board. Without the care and consideration of all our staff and volunteers, MPFH would just be another roof to keep out the rain – you make it into a home for those who stay with us.

Supporting the work of our frontline staff and volunteers, the House’s management have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure the lights stay on and the heating bill gets paid! Mary Hatt and Chris Pelletier work together to keep up awareness of the House and its mission, and to keep things running smoothly when guests arrive. The work of social media management, going to networking evenings on behalf of the House, planning the House’s big events (Golf4Life and Fall for Beer), doing payroll, arranging maintenance, scheduling staff… these functions aren’t our mission, but they make our mission possible, giving Lyn, Virginia, and all the guest-facing staff and volunteers the tools they need to serve our community.

Before I sign off, I would like to share what a privilege it was to meet some of this community at our Fall for Beer event, held at Shawn & Ed Brewing on November 14th. With COVID-related closures and precautions, the Fall for Beer tradition had fallen by the wayside recently, but thanks to the efforts of staff and a few dedicated Board members, we revived that exciting tradition this year, to great success. Almost 100 members of the MPFH community came out not only in support of the House, but also to reconnect with old friends and make new acquaintances. If you couldn’t make it this year, please keep an eye out next year for news on the 2024 Fall for Beer – and come out to say hello! Or consider joining us on May 30th, 2024, for our annual Golf4Life tournament. Stay tuned for news on that as well!

I have rambled on, as I am wont to do. Let me close by reiterating my thanks to all of you – to our staff and volunteers, to our donors and financial supporters, and to those of you who have called the House home and stayed connected with us over the years. You make the Mark Preece Family House into a home. Thank you.

All my best over the coming holiday season.

Russ Rowlands, Chair