Grandma’s Elephants: Running with a purpose during Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend

Joan Dettrich and her family members in three photos within round frames

For Chelsea Chapman, Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend has a very different meaning this year. It is so much more than Canada’s biggest marathon weekend - it’s a tribute to a woman she loved and looked up to her entire life. Chelsea’s beloved grandma, Joan Dettrich, passed away in early 2020 after spending her final months at Bruyère’s Saint-Vincent Hospital. The care and compassion she received during her stay was exceptional. And as a means to recognize the care team and to honour her grandmother, Chelsea made the commitment to sign up for her very first half-marathon and raise funds for Bruyère in memory of her grandmother.

After a long battle with cancer, Joan Dettrich was enjoying living the rest of her life as she wished – independently, at home. That all changed on December 17th, 2018, when Joan was admitted to The Ottawa Hospital’s Civic Campus following a stroke. Due to the complexity of her prognosis, Joan was not expected to fully recover, and her medical team was focused on her comfort rather than her rehabilitation. Being the fighter she was, Joan spent the next few months at The Ottawa Hospital, proving she was determined to spend more time with her family before being transferred to Élisabeth Bruyère Hospital’s Palliative Care Unit in March 2019.

Upon her arrival at Bruyère, Joan’s family immediately felt at ease. The staff was attentive, warm, caring, and took the time to keep Chelsea and her family informed of Joan’s evolving health situation. Chelsea found comfort in knowing that her grandma’s needs were being met, and that she was being well cared for - even when her loved ones couldn’t be by her side.

By July of 2019, Joan had made it clear that she had more life to live, and she was transferred to Bruyère’s Saint-Vincent Hospital where she was able to receive the complex care she required. Joan received the same exceptional care at Saint-Vincent that she had experienced at Élisabeth Bruyère Hospital, and her family was grateful to have Joan spend her remaining days comfortable and in a caring environment where they could focus on spending quality time together during their visits.

Joan had a love for elephants. They were her good luck charm. Chelsea gifted her a stuffed elephant when she first was admitted to the hospital, and her Grandma’s care team could often be seen tucking it in with her— a sweet touch that has stayed with Chelsea and her family.

This Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, we hope you will consider supporting Grandma’s Elephants as Chelsea takes on her first half-marathon in support of Bruyère. There are many ways that you can get involved and show your support including:


  • Make a donation towards the Grandma’s Elephant’s financial goal today by clicking here. You will receive a tax receipt for your full donation. Every dollar counts!
  • Join the Team! Join Grandma’s Elephants and complete your own physical and fundraising challenge in support of Bruyère. Sign up to walk or run either in-person or virtually for the 2K, 5K, 10K, half or full marathon and be sure to sign up for the Desjardins Charity Challenge during your registration.