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South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation With Peter Steele, Board Chair

By July 13th, 2023No Comments12 min read
Home » South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation With Peter Steele, Board Chair

DSP Peter Steele | SOS Medical Foundation


Through their unwavering commitment to fundraising for the betterment of healthcare in the South Okanagan region, the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation (SOS Medical Foundation) has become a beacon of hope. Together, we bridge the gap between aspiration and realization, channeling our collective strength to build a healthier future for all. In this episode, we dive into the inspiring work of the SOS Medical Foundation. Our special guest, Peter Steele, the esteemed Chair of the Foundation’s board, takes us on a journey through its impactful initiatives and future aspirations. Peter shares the foundation’s humble beginnings and its evolution into a prominent fundraising force dedicated to improving healthcare for the constituents of the South Okanagan region. He shares how the foundation’s fundraising efforts have positively impacted 16 sites within Interior Health, making it the largest-serving foundation in the region. From state-of-the-art equipment to enhancing patient experiences and supporting long-term care facilities, the foundation’s contributions have touched countless lives. Moreover, Peter reveals the successful launch of their second-largest campaign to raise funds for an enhanced oncology unit at the Penticton Regional Hospital. Overcoming challenges with determination, the foundation swiftly adapted to increased project scope, exemplifying its commitment to delivering exceptional healthcare services to its community. Join us and be immersed in the remarkable stories of healthcare fundraising, community support, and the quest for excellence in medical care.

Listen to the podcast here


South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation With Peter Steele, Board Chair

I am delighted to be joined by Peter Steele. Peter is the Chair of the Board of the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation, which we will refer to either as the SOS or the SOS foundation because that’s a bit of a mouthful in terms of a name, but it’s a great organization and Peter’s a great guy. We are looking forward to a great chat. Welcome, Peter.

Thank you. I’m glad to be here and you are right. The South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation is a mouthful. We just go now by SOS Medical Foundation and everybody knows who we are.

It’s SOS but you don’t need help. Let’s launch right in then. We are talking about the CEO search. The CEO is going to work very closely with you and other board members in this leadership opportunity leading the foundation. Let’s start there in terms of context for someone that’s not familiar with the SOS Foundation, tell me a little bit more about it. What exactly does it do and where is it? Let’s start with that.

The SOS Medical Foundation office is located within the Penticton Regional Hospital. In Penticton, British Columbia. We are a fundraising charity, a fundraising farm, and the bulk of all of our proceeds benefit healthcare for the constituents of the South Okanagan. What I started to say is all of our proceeds go to interior health, but they don’t necessarily. Historically, that’s what’s happened. We serve sixteen sites in interior health, and I am told that that is the largest number of sites served by any foundation within interior health. These range from particular regional hospitals to what we call health units. There’s a health unit in the South Osoyoos.

There are several long-term care facilities that we have helped fundraise for and fundraising can be equipment. It can be anything that benefits the constituents. In one of the long-term care facilities, we provide some musical entertainment. Another one, we provided some funds for them to improve the garden. Anything that benefits the health.

It’s a nice mix of opportunities both for donors, public health, and direct healthcare for that matter too. We will talk a little bit later about some of those priorities and initiatives, but I want to ask a little bit more about you. How did you get involved in the foundation? What’s your origin story?

In 2003, the foundation undertook a fundraising campaign to purchase a digital mammography machine for the screening of breast cancers. At the time, that was the only hospital in Western Canada that had this type of equipment. Breast cancer was something that was near and dear to me with a family member. The executive director was then the executive who came and spoke to a Rotary club at which I was president. We connected, I followed up some more and ended up shortly after that joining the board. I have been with them ever since. Can’t seem to get away.

They wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m sure you are a stalwart there. When you think about your tenure so far, I’m curious if there are particular things given the foundation’s work and mission. Are there particular things that you are proud of having achieved during your tenure? Not to say that you are taking sole credit here necessarily, but I’m just curious what resonates with you.

I have been with the board since about 2005. I was working then and then I would travel in the winter and wasn’t as active. With COVID, I didn’t have any place to go away in the winter and got eventually into a leadership role. First as Vice Chair and then Chair where I have been the Board Chair for years. What I’m proud of is we have launched our second largest campaign which is a $10 million client campaign to improve the oncology unit within a particular regional hospital. That was a big step for us. That was a project that’d been on the go for many years. The initial request from us long story short was $7 million. When it came down to literally the final minute interior house said, “We made a mistake and it’s got to be $10 million. Can you guys respond?”

I’m proud of the fact that we turned that approval around within 24 hours to get it back. We are off and running. We launched that campaign in November 2022. We are halfway through it. In terms of fundraising, we were hoping to do it in five years. 6 months later we are $5 million into that campaign. The first part is always easy.

The first part is always easy. Click To Tweet

I wouldn’t say always easy. These things take some work, so don’t sell yourself short there.

Easier. The second part is what we hold for the future. The foundation is lucky enough to own a parcel of land. Adjacent to the hospital that was gifted to us by a donor many years ago. It’s a key piece of land in particular because it’s an industrial site and there are no vacant industrial sites. More importantly, we want to do something with interior health for it. We have talked amongst the board about building a residential tower for nursing staff with daycare at the bottom. We have talked about including a retail store because we have an interest in a thrift store in Penticton. Maybe we could move that over.

DSP Peter Steele | SOS Medical Foundation

SOS Medical Foundation: We want to do something with interior health, building a residential tower for nursing staff with daycare at the bottom, including a retail store and long-term care facilities.


We have talked to interior health about long-term care facilities. That’s exciting. We need to have a partner to do that. That’s going to be a big project. We own the land, maybe it’s got a value of $5 million. We need to partner with somebody to come in and put a building on that property. That’s what we are looking for in the future.

That’s compelling. You mentioned the second largest campaign, let’s not lose sight of the first or the largest campaign that you did as well for the new tower at the hospital where foundation offices are located for that matter. That’s a not-insignificant capital paycheck at all.

For that, we raised $25 million over a 3.5 or 4-year period.

That’s what I want to point to. There’s a strong legacy of success here for a new CEO. When we think about a new CEO, we are working together on the search for a new CEO. Let’s talk a little bit about that. What is this person going to be doing? You have outlined a couple of key things that they are going to be responsible for or vision around the oncology campaign specifically this future land. Anything else you want to talk about vis-a-vis the new CEO?

The foundation has been in existence for 40 years. We have grown a lot during that time. With our CEO who’s now moved on to a significantly bigger challenge, we didn’t have a lot of things that an organization should strive to do. We didn’t have good job descriptions or properly documented salary ranges. We had adequate governance, but not good governance. All that stuff is in place. Now, all we need is someone to come in and raise money. There’s no back-office stuff that has to be taken care of.

That was a significant job, a big undertaking in it that Sally Ginter undertook and completed successfully. We even have probably a two-and-a-half page list of things we have to do and when we have to do them what reports have to be filed. Do we have insurance on the land? It’s a great amount of detail. Now, all we want to do is raise money, finish oncology, and get something going with that building.

That’s an exciting piece for a new person coming in as well. They are going to be working with a great Board. You talked a little bit about the board so far. I know one of the things you should be proud of as well is just trying to refresh that board, bring in some new members make sure that there’s some continuity there and some diversity at the board. Tell me a bit about the board table that the CEO’s going to be working with. What’s the board culture like?

The foundation office operates like a family. That culture extends up to the board or maybe it extended from the board down. It’s a small group. We are thirteen members. We have a couple of committees governance, finance, and what we call the profile committee. We don’t have a strategic plan. Maybe we should have a planning committee. The plan is the building long-term. We have a mix of retired individuals and those who are still employed. That’s worked out quite well. Our donor base is aging. It’s got to get younger. My focus was to try and bring in younger board members who had that network.

DSP Peter Steele | SOS Medical Foundation

SOS Medical Foundation: The plan is the building long-term.


What I failed to think about is younger board members have jobs and families, but we have some older board members who are retired and so can spend the time if we have a special project. Something needs doing they can do it. If we have to get together for an emergency meeting, they can usually drop stuff and show up. It’s diversified in terms of half men and half women. The average age, mathematically, is 55 or something.

It strikes me as a group that is highly consultative that’s keen to both learn and contribute to that matter. In partnership with the CEO, this is a group that’s highly engaged and wants the foundation fundamentally to succeed. Is that fair to say?

Definitely, and a broad range of experience.

That’s a crucial piece there. Wide variety of experience and backgrounds for sure.

All of the board profiles are on our website. Anybody can go on and have a look at them and read to know them a little bit better.

I was going to mention that in the context of the accomplishments of the foundation as well. The wide variety of equipment and purchases that you have made. That’s all on your website. The website is a great source. That’s for sure.

That’s another thing that has happened over the past couple of years. We have a style guide, a color guide, and a great website. We had a good website before but it’s even better now.

Makes a world of difference. When you think about the new CEO, think about their accomplishments six months in or a year in, as the case may be. How would they earn a gold star at the foundation? What are you looking for them to achieve? We have alluded to a few things here, but what do you think the most important accomplishments may be?

What our previous CEO was able to do was expand our profile to these sixteen sites. She arranged for the entire board to travel to a small hospital in Princeton as an example for a board meeting. The people in Princeton don’t even know that we exist. They think they have their little hospital and their little auxiliary, which is a donor to us, but we have the ability to do a lot in Princeton.

We have to keep that network. We have to grow that network. We have to expand it. Fortunately, our previous CEO was out and about town, and got herself well-known in a short period of time. We want to have that family culture. We have a small office and it works well. Strong team culture, developing good relationships with interior health, and raising dollars.

Have that family culture. If you have a small office, it works well. Click To Tweet

We talked about some of those priorities vis-a-vis the campaign and the opportunity with the land for sure. Looking ahead. That’s great. Thinking ahead just in closing here. What message do you have for potential candidates, curious people, or people that might be on the fence about looking into the foundation?

To reach out. Make a call. Go onto the website. Poke around. I know our previous CEO would give us all high marks and I’m sure that when it got to that point, we could make that introduction. They could probably track her down by looking on the website and then Googling her. Reach out to Sally and get her opinion, find out what it’s like. Also, reach out to you, and let’s get their application. Let’s meet and let’s see if we can come together.

Between us, the board, and the staff, we have put together a pretty rigorous application package or candidate package. Transparency is one of the hallmarks of the foundation, both by necessity and desire for that matter. We are certainly open books. We have talked mostly about the opportunities. Inevitably there are challenges in all roles as well. This is very much a foundation that’s well-positioned for the future. That’s for sure. I want to echo your sentiment for interested candidates to reach out if they are at all curious or interested.

I hope they do.

Hope so too. Thanks very much for your time. Again, I can be reached at [email protected] or via LinkedIn and various advertising channels as well. We have put the word out there. Hope this conversation has been useful for potential candidates and interested people for that matter. Thanks again for your time, Peter.

Thanks, Christoph.

I appreciate it. All the best.


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