TIMMINS -- The COVID-19 pandemic has put many of us on edge, but hospital foundations throughout the north have found a way to create some fun and give people something to get excited about: 50/50 lotteries.

The draws are growing in popularity, amassing large payouts to winning ticket holders and hospitals.

The Timmins and District Hospital has a long list of medical equipment it needs, none of which will be funded by the government.

“The hospital has a ... capital equipment list for $35 million,” said Jason Laneville, executive director for the Timmins and District Hospital Foundation.

"So that’s $7 million in the next five years we need to raise. We’re certainly not going to put a dent into it unless we have something like this."

For decades, the hospital foundation has organized a variety of elaborate fundraising events. Those have been put on hold or substituted with virtual versions during the pandemic. Now, selling 50/50 tickets has become so successful, it almost seems too good to be true.

“Our average in the four months: $274,000," said Laneville. "Now it’s a lot of work. This is a huge program that we run.”

Other foundation employees said the monthly draws are helping create a fun atmosphere in the hospital during a challenging time.

“It’s really phenomenal," said Barb McCormick, manager of donor relations for the Timmins and District Hospital Foundation. "We have physicians who’ll stop us and say, 'What the heck?' I just kind of look at them thinking are you asking me what the heck because this lottery is so crazy large?”

The success is catching the attention of other hospital foundations, such as West Nipissing General Hospital in Sturgeon Falls, which launched its first 50/50 lottery this month.

“Annually, we try to purchase half a million dollars in equipment," said Cynthia Desormiers, president and CEO of the West Nipissing General Hospital.

"This year, we’re looking at a new hematology analyzer, which is fairly expensive and then you know smaller items that could be anywhere from beds at $5,000 apiece."

People can look forward to 50/50 lotteries on a monthly basis at the hospitals. The foundation in Timmins foresees them being a part of its fundraising plan for years to come.