Another successful year for Comox Valley’s 2024 YANA Valley Vonka contest

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We are incredibly grateful for the overwhelming support from the Comox Valley Record, Hot Chocolates, and Parker’s Appliances as they wrap up this annual Valley Vonka fundraiser! Thanks to their chocolaty-heart, we’re delighted to announce that YANA is the recipient of a jaw-dropping total of $17,949 from purchasing the Valley Vonka chocolate bars featuring Olive the Orca.

To everyone who made and purchased the chocolate bars, the families who shared their stories, and the kids who participated in the coloring contest and supported this fundraiser in any way, THANK YOU for helping make this fundraiser so successful! Your support ensures that local families facing out of town medical challenges know they are not alone.

100 days in Victoria for Comox Valley family – YANA was there the entire way

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Originally published by the Comox Valley Record, March 27, 2024

Terry Farrell – Comox Valley Record

It was week 23 when Joseph Jones and Emily Johnston first found out there were complications with Emily’s pregnancy. Emily was diagnosed with placental dysfunction.

“Basically, her blood pressure was too high and it was calcifying the placenta, so the blood was not getting through it to give any nutrients,” said Joseph. “Week 23 we found out and we were in the hospital by the beginning of week 24.”

Bromley Johnston-Jones was born on April 3, 2023, at week 28, weighing only 694 grams.

“He was the youngest baby born that year,” said Joseph. “One and a half pounds.”

The parents shared different emotions once Bromley was born.

“I felt affirmation, in making the correct choices that we made, to help him have the best options,” said Emily. “But honestly I kind of compartmentalized my feelings and emotions because our condition was so critical. So I really had to focus all my energy on him. So I didn’t have a lot of feelings at the time.”

Joseph felt enough happiness for the whole family.

“I was just overjoyed, to be honest with you,” he said. “From the very beginning, when they said this was happening, I just knew he was going to be just fine. I just had it in my mind from the second they told us. I truly believed nothing was going to be wrong with him; he is going to be just fine. When he came out, yeah he was tiny, but he was just fine. There was nothing wrong with him, other than being a bit small.”

Eight months later, Bromley, Joseph and Emily celebrated their first Christmas together, and Bromley has all the energy and awareness of a typical eight-month-old.

And YANA has been with the family every step of the way.

YANA (You Are Not Alone) is a community organization offering help to Comox Valley families who need to travel for medical treatment for a child or for a pregnant mother. Its purpose is to improve access to healthcare by providing travel funding and accommodation.

“They reached out to us almost immediately – YANA was just great,” said Joseph. “They found out we needed to stay in Victoria for possibly four months and before we even knew it they had a place for us, they had it all scheduled, rented, money in our bank for food, gas, everything. We couldn’t have done it without them. They did so much.”

“We found out on Friday that we were going to the hospital on Monday, and YANA had already contacted us and everything and were setting up (accommodations),” added Emily.

The family was in Victoria for more than 100 days. With both Joseph and Emily being self-employed, that’s a quick stop to incoming funds, for an extended period. But as Emily pointed out, ‘providing for the family comes in many forms.

“By Joseph being able to be there and help us with all the decisions, he was providing for us,” she said. “Even though he wasn’t working, he was providing for the family with his emotional support.”

Joseph said even the emotional support of knowing they weren’t on their own meant the world.

“Just knowing someone was in our corner, and there to help – it took so much stress away. Not having to find a place to live… it was all just amazing,” said Joseph. “They (YANA) were just saying ‘don’t worry about how long this takes; we are in your corner.’”

As Bromnley approaches his first birthday, Joseph said he’s a typical baby.

“He’s a little small, but everything is perfectly fine. All his organs are fine. His eyesight, his lungs, his brain. His body is at below three per cent so he is still pretty small but his head is at 48 per cent, so he has a huge noggin – a big brain.”

The family still receives help from YANA – last week they had to travel to Victoria for a check-up. YANA helped them with the finances.

The family has also given back to YANA in. various ways.

“We had a dance fundraiser when we got back and donated everything to YANA,” said Joseph. “They are such an important part of our community. It’s a great organization and it is really needed.”


The Valley Vonka – a major fundraiser for YANA, is ongoing in the Comox Valley. Businesses throughout the community are selling chocolate bars (by donation) with the chance to find one of six Golden Tickets inside the bar. A Golden Ticket qualifies the redeemer to one of six grand prizes, values anywhere from $1,000 to $3,500.

Chocolate bars are available at:

• Hyland Precast (4552 Cumberland Road, Cumberland)

• Pilon Tools (123 N Island Hwy., Courtenay)

• Margot Rutherford (981 Fitzgerald Ave., Courtenay)

• Mackenzie Gartside (525 Cliffe Ave., Downtown Courtenay)

• Bennett Sheet Metal (741 McPhee Ave., Courtenay)

• Hot Chocolates (368 5th St., Courtenay)

• Peninsula Co-op (Aspen Rodd, Comox)

• Uptown Dental Centre (Comox Mall)

• Harbourview Dental Centre – Comox Ave.

• Arbor Dental Centre (Comox Ave., Comox)

• Pharmasave (Aspen Grove Centre, Comox)

• CSN Reliable (787 Cumberland Rd., Courtenay)

• Bomback & Co (1255 C Cliffe Ave., Courtenay)

• The Flying Apron (Strathcona Plaza, Comox)

• Quality Foods (Comox and Courtenay locations)

• Canadian Tire (Driftwood Mall, Courtenay)

• Old House Hotel & Spa – (17th street, Courtenay)

• Kingfisher Oceanside Resort & Spa – (five minutes south of Royston)

• Blinds & Bubbles Boutique (located in Central Builders)

• Brian Mclean Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Hummer Ltd. (Cliffe Ave., Courtenay)

ª Parker Appliances and More – (29th Street connector, Courtenay)

YANA (You Are Not Alone) is a not-for-profit organization in the Comox Valley that helps families who need to travel for medical treatment for their children or a pregnant mother.

A lifeline for the Loewen-Sanchez family in high-risk pregnancy journey

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Originally published by the Comox Valley Record, March 20, 2024

Erin Haluschak – Comox Valley Record

Reya Loewen-Sanchez’s entry into the world was anything but ordinary. 

Her mother faced a high-risk pregnancy due to pre-eclampsia and placenta previa, conditions that posed significant risks to both her and the baby. For 61 days, the family – including dad Jordan Sanchez – found refuge with YANA’s help, receiving crucial support. 

“We ended up in the emergency with the possibility that we could lose the baby. My wife was helicoptered out to Victoria where they have a NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) and lived in the hospital for a while.” 

Jordan added YANA came to their side immediately and assisted the family in a variety of ways. It provided funds for travel as he had to drive to Victoria, take time away from work and living expenses while away from home.

“We ended up at the wonderful Jeneece Place (a home away from home where children and their families can stay while receiving medical care in Victoria) and YANA funded the stay. They covered cost of living away from home, being away from work and the cost of living there – it made a massive difference in our lives.” 

Jordan’s wife was in hospital and gave birth on Nov. 23, 2023 at 37 weeks to a healthy baby girl, and didn’t have to use the hospital’s NICU.

“I believe it’s because so much of the financial and emotional street was taken away from the entire experience (thanks to YANA) and it gave us such a wonderful start.” 

While YANA provides accommodation and support for families who need to travel outside their community for medical treatment for their children, it also offers emotional support and resources to help families cope with the challenges they face during their medical journeys. 

Overall, YANA’s mission is to ensure that families feel supported and cared for during difficult times, allowing them to focus on their child’s health and well-being. 

The Loewen-Sanchez family has since returned home to the Comox Valley. As a teacher, Jordan explained he was previously aware of YANA as some of his students had volunteered with the organization, but admitted he wasn’t aware of the level that the organization steps up for families. 

“They are so integral in our community. They made the biggest difference in our quality of life.”

YANA (You Are Not Alone) is a not-for-profit organization in the Comox Valley that helps families who need to travel for medical treatment for their children or a pregnant mother.

Family thankful for YANA support during child’s cancer treatment

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Originally published by the Comox Valley Record, March 20, 2024

Connor McDowell – Comox Valley Record

For the first time since her diagnosis, Emma Hardie is going a year without a follow-up appointment. 

Her father Robert told the Record the family has travelled to Victoria and Vancouver several times to obtain treatment for Emma, who was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Now that Emma is in good health, Robert gives thanks to the You Are Not Alone (YANA) organization, which supported the family by covering some costs of repeated travelling.

“I have nothing but great things to say about YANA,” he said. “The stuff they do for the people in Comox Valley is incredible.” 

It began for the Hardie family before Emma was born – the mother, Leah, had to stay three weeks in 2014 in a Vancouver hospital leading up to Emma’s birth. Leah had a medical complication with her heart, so the birth was sensitive and needed special care on the mainland.

Robert said YANA supported his family at this time by repaying them for some daily spending. This included food and gas and more. Robert said it was a big help to the family as staying in Vancouver was costly. 

Emma was diagnosed with cancer three years later in 2017. 

The toddler had to undergo treatment twice – cancer had spread from her kidney to her lungs. This meant the family had to travel again to big cities like Vancouver and Victoria. 

It was at this time that the Hardies again sought the help of YANA and received it, said the dad. 

“All there medical appointments kept coming up to us again and again and again,” said Robert. “Our family doctor mentioned YANA… so I just contacted them and… they said they would love to help out.” 

It’s now been five years off treatment. Robert told the Record Emma will go her first year without a medical follow-up. She’s doing great now, he said, and he couldn’t be more thankful he said that a group like YANA was offering help to his family in trying times.

YANA (You Are Not Alone) is a not-for-profit organization in the Comox Valley that helps families who need to travel for medical treatment for their children or a pregnant mother.

YANA’s compassionate mission grows with community support in the Valley

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Originally published by the Comox Valley Record, March 13, 2024

Erin Haluschak – Comox Valley Record

As the demand for services grows every year, so does the fundraising goal for the Comox Valley organization whose mission embodies compassion, support, community spirit and practical assistance when it’s needed most.

You Are Not Alone (YANA), is a local non-profit society that provides accommodation and funding to Comox Valley families who need to travel outside the community for medical treatment for a child under 19 or for a pregnant mother says Kelly Barnie, executive director.

“And we do that because the community has our back. When we email our clients and we talk to our clients and we say ‘We’ll be there every step of the way,’ your community is behind you. This is what we mean.”

YANA’s impact on the community is palpable, with countless families testifying to the difference their support has made in their lives.

The purpose of the organization is to improve access to healthcare by providing travel funding and accommodation.

What sets YANA apart is its unwavering commitment to inclusivity and accessibility. Regardless of age, background or circumstance, YANA welcomes all families with open arms, ensuring that no one in the community feels alone in their journey.

One of YANA’s most beloved programs is their accommodation facilities, lovingly known as the ‘YANA apartments.’

YANA maintains four fully furnished apartments within walking distance of BC Children’s Hospital and also assists with finding and funding accommodation in alternate treatment destinations.

These cozy, fully furnished apartments provide a home away from home for families traveling to the Comox Valley for medical treatment.

With their warm and welcoming atmosphere, the YANA Apartments offer a comforting refuge where families can rest, recharge and find solace amidst the challenges they face.

Their services are available to anyone in need, regardless of their financial situation, ensuring that everyone can access the support and resources they deserve.

Recently, YANA held an annual fundraiser which raised $232,000 for YANA families, and now the Valley Vonka fundraiser, which launched March 6, has a goal to raise $22,000.

The chocolate-bar-themed fundraiser sees 3,000 Hot Chocolate bars distributed to various retailers throughout the Comox Valley.

Six of the bars contain golden tickets for various prizes, including a $ 1,000 gas card from Peninsula Co-op; a family ski pass to Mount Washington Alpine Resort, Old House Hotel & Spa and OhSpa gift certificates; a two-night stay and a hydropath session at the Kingfisher Resort & Spa for two adults; a $1,000 Quality Foods gift card and a $1,000 gift card from Canadian Tire.

YANA (You Are Not Alone) is a not-for-profit organization in the Comox Valley that helps families who need to travel for medical treatment for their children or a pregnant mother.

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