Connor & Megan Wells, a YANA Family Story

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Originally published by the Comox Valley Record – October 23, 2021

Andrea Postal, Client Services, YANA.  Special to the Record

It was February of 2007, Michelle and Bob Wells were excitedly awaiting the arrival of their twins, Megan and Connor, who were expected to stay safe on the inside for a few more months.

It seemed the twins had other plans though, and at just 29 weeks pregnant Michelle went into pre-term labour and was flown from St. Joseph’s Hospital to a higher level of care at BC Women’s Hospital in Vancouver.

Bob recalled his first encounter with YANA as he prepared to follow behind his wife; a nurse had handed him an envelope with cash and a note from YANA, funding provided through YANA’s Emergency Hospital Funding program and designated for families who are unexpectedly sent out of the community to access medical care for a pregnant mother or a child.

“One of the nurses just handed me an envelope and I asked what it was for, she said it was $100 cash from YANA, and I remember saying, ‘we’re okay, we’re sort of relatively prepared, we have our overnight bag’, they said, ‘there’s no choice, you have to take the envelopes,’” said Bob, laughing at the memory and the kindness felt from his community in a time of such uncertainty.

“For us, that trip, being able to get some money from YANA that we didn’t ask for, I guess an analogy is, it’s kind of like a hug from your community. We didn’t know what was going on, certainly lots of anxiety, a lot of fear… you don’t know how things are going to turn out. To have that support was absolutely amazing. We kind of thought that would be the end of the story.”

The doctors were able to get Michelle’s labour under control and the couple returned home about a week later. Life was getting back to normal. And then, at 36 weeks, Michelle began to show signs of complications with the pregnancy. After being assessed at the hospital it was clear they would need to relocate again, this time to Victoria.

“We literally got in our car, drove to Victoria, and while we were doing that, at the same time, unbeknownst to us, YANA was working in the background to get us a place to stay,” said Bob.

YANA arranged for a place for the couple to stay at Easter Seals House and provided the family with funds to help cover some of the expenses of being away from home.

Bob and Michelle welcomed their twins into the world the day after arriving in Victoria. Connor was doing quite well but Megan was struggling with breathing and feeding complications as the result of a cleft palate. Despite that, both babies were expected to return home within a month.

After three weeks in the Victoria General Hospital NICU Connor was given the all-clear and it was hopeful that Megan would follow close behind. It was only a week later that the hospital gave the green light for Megan too, and Bob eagerly headed down-Island to bring his daughter and wife home, when he was pulled over by an unexpected phone call.

“Unfortunately one of Megan’s nurses mistakenly squeezed her bottle at the wrong time, and that ended up getting Megan with aspiration pneumonia. One of the side-effects was that she’d gone into cardiac arrest… all we knew at that point is that she wouldn’t be coming home that day,” said Wells, describing how the terrifying setback came with the uncertainty of the future, while Megan fought to regain the strength and health she needed to come home.

For the next three months, the couple would travel back and forth every few days sharing their time between the twins and living between their family home and their Easter Seal home that YANA continued to provide for them to stay in, in addition to their continued help with the living expenses.

After a long and uncertain four months and close to 40 trips back and forth, Megan was finally healthy enough to return home.

Over the years since their first encounter with YANA and the many follow-up trips that followed, it’s been important for the family to give back to YANA and to show their appreciation for the community’s support that made such a tremendous impact on their lives.

Bob, formerly the owner of My Tech Guys, has generously provided the organization with equipment and technology support for YANA’s internal operations and many of their annual fundraisers. Connor and Megan know intimately the story of how they came to be a YANA family and they’ve creatively given back over the years by selling hot dogs for YANA and hosting by-donation Star Wars movie nights. Connor, Megan and their younger brother Quinn also started a bottle collection company to give back to other local charities, and have collected almost 25,000 bottles since May of 2020.

“That support you get from the community, I can certainly say for myself, that’s really wanted to make me give back to the community even more,” said Bob. “At the end of the day, what YANA’s meant to us, I think, is really that embodiment of the best in our community, of people who are really there to support us, and not just support us, but allow the community to give that support back.”

Shayne & Tori Boelk, A YANA Family Story

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Originally published by the Comox Valley Record – Sept 18, 2021

Andrea Postal, Client Services, YANA.  Special to the Record

Nobody plans for their child to get sick or for their lives to get turned upside down, but it happens to families right here in our community. This glimpse into reality comes from Shayne Boelk, father of Tori Boelk, whose journey has not been an easy one, or a short one, but it has been one that began with a glimmer of hope from YANA.

Tori’s journey with YANA dates all the way back to 2007 when Tori’s Mother was pregnant with twins and was admitted to St. Joseph’s hospital with labour complications that resulted in devastating news.

“The OB came over and wanted to have a chat with us and brought a chair with him, and when that happened, I knew we were in pretty big trouble,” said Shayne. “And then what he told us is that we lost her sister. And that’s when things go sideways.”

After discovering that Tori’s twin had passed, they worked to stave off the threat of preterm contractions to ensure that Tori could continue to safely grow in utero for as long as possible. It was in between the flurry of activity, right before Tori’s mother was air-lifted to Vancouver to be closer to more acute medical care, that a nurse stuffed an envelope into her hand containing money with a note from YANA. The couple was overwhelmed with the generosity from their community, but it wasn’t until much later in their journey that they would reach out to the organization for further support.

After arriving in Vancouver and looking more closely, Tori’s medical team discovered a congenital cardiac defect that would require open-heart surgery shortly after birth. The heart defect was the result of a microdeletion, DiGeorge syndrome, which would present myriad health complications and challenges after Tori was born. The couple stayed for the three months leading up to her birth and didn’t return home with her until after her first birthday.

“We were pretty overwhelmed and maxed out by the time we finally connected with YANA. Being away from home for a year, still paying all of those bills, and also carrying rent and living expenses in Vancouver was a lot,” Shayne said, commenting on how quickly it became apparent how unique YANA is to this community.

Many families receive hospital emergency funding, an envelope with $200 cash and a letter from YANA to connect for further support given to families who are required to emergency transfer for medical care from the Comox Valley Hospital. Presently, only about 40 per cent of recipients connect for further support, something that the organization is working to change in hopes that all families will benefit from the full depth of relief YANA can provide, something Shayne quickly discovered after making the connection to YANA.

“One of the things that’s almost universal, none of those parents plan for that stuff to happen. You don’t plan for life to get derailed, and it happens a lot… and all of a sudden there’s a YANA there.”

Tori is almost 14, she has a vibrant and infectious smile, and Shayne beams with pride as he speaks of her strength and resilience. Tori continues to make multiple trips to address many of the challenges she faces each day, and the family continues to be overwhelmed with gratitude for the support they receive from their community through YANA.

“I can not convey what an amazing program that YANA is. I have met many people at BCCH (BC Children’s Hospital), and when they ask where we are staying and I tell them about YANA, their jaws usually hit the floor,” says Shayne. “The fact that it is managed privately and is a product of the Comox Valley and the people who run it, is awe-inspiring. I can not think of a more worthy charity for people to get behind.”

YANA’s support is available to any Comox Valley family required to travel for the medical care of their child or a pregnant mother. YANA’s programs are made possible thanks to the enormous hearts of the generous people of this community, helping families know in some of their most difficult moments that You Are Not Alone.

Andrea Postal is a member of the client services team for YANA.

 

Thank you YANA riders and supporters!

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More than 300 riders put their creativity and bikes to work from August 1-15, 2021 by participating in the chart-your-own-course, virtual version of this integral, annual fundraiser. 

Through a summer like no other, even in the midst of holidays, beach days, long-anticipated road trips and travel, this incredible community still showed up. You ‘Everested’, you climbed, you cruised (some of you crashed), but no matter how you showed your support, you found a way to make it your own and celebrate YANA any way that you could. 

To the riders, the donors, the sponsors; to the giant-hearted YANA supporters from across the Comox Valley and beyond, to say ‘thank you’ is hardly enough for the $77,000 that, together, we raised for families in our community. You truly showed every YANA child that even through the darkest of days, they are not alone. 

Plans are already underway for a hybrid event in 2022!  Mark your calendars now to ride for YANA between August 1-21st and join other riders and supporters for the Party in the Park on August 21. 

Bikes Will Keep Us Together, One Pedal at a Time

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Originally published by the Comox Valley Record – May 26, 2021

Registration ongoing until August 15!

The 2021 Comox Bike Co. YANA Ride is ramping up for another fully flexible, socially distanced virtual biking event. While the world makes its way through the final stretch of a pandemic that has changed the way we do things, the YANA Ride organizers are making sure that bikes will continue to keep us together as we see our way through to the other side.   

Registration for the 2021 Comox Bike Co. YANA Ride will open online on June 1st.

Last year’s re-vamped, virtual fundraiser was YANA’s most successful ride yet, and this year’s event is set to be no different. Between August 1-15th, participants can choose the when, where, and what for their ride, in order to raise pledges in support of the charity’s funding and accommodation programs that provide help for children and pregnant mothers required to travel outside of the community for medical care.   

Creativity is key, and the endless choice of roads and trails are the only maps needed for riders to chart their own path.  Whether you set out to ride solo or gather a crew, bike a kilometre or two, or plan an across-the-island adventure, this year is all about creating a ride that fits with the current health protocols, but equally important, also means something to you.

Organizers are excited to be adding a 50/50 draw to the event this year. “The online 50/50 was a huge success for us at our Big Love event in February.  Our lucky ticketholder won over $10,000! There have been some incredible jackpots for charity 50/50 draws across the province in the last few months, like over $100,000 and $300,000 big”, said YANA Executive Director Kelly Barnie.  “We know how much our supporters would love to see that kind of money be raised for YANA families, and we would sure love to hand over that kind of cheque to a lucky winner.  The 50/50s really are a huge win-win!”.  There will also be an online auction loaded with a variety of bike gear and accessories thanks to Comox Valley Bike Co. and their generous suppliers, along with many other great items to bid on. Prizes for every fundraising rider and top fundraiser prizes, including the coveted original YANA Ride T-shirts courtesy of Dr. Andreas Conradi will make a return for the 2021 event as well.

Registration opens June 1st and is available by any donation, big or small. For more information and to sign up for this year’s event, visit https://www.yanacomoxvalley.com/yana-event/ride/. Together, we will let Comox Valley families know that we’re a community that goes the distance for one another, one pedal at a time. 

Ali, Nick, & Blake, A YANA Family Story

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Originally published by the Comox Valley Record – July 28, 2021

Andrea Postal, Client Services, YANA.  Special to the Record

Team McQueen is decked out and ready to take donations and ride for YANA families in this year’s Comox Bike Co. YANA Ride. This is the 3rd year Nick and Ali Usher have participated in the organization’s annual event, and they have every reason in the world to come together to give back to YANA. 

The Usher’s were first introduced to YANA 3.5 years ago when their youngest son, Blake, was born 15 weeks early by emergency c-section at St.Joseph’s hospital. Shortly after an emotional and challenging delivery, Blake was air-ambulanced to Victoria General Hospital and his parents prepared to follow close behind. Before they left the hospital Nick and Ali were given a gift from YANA that would change the course of their time away from home. 

“The nurses just handed us this envelope, it says YANA on it, and you open it and there’s all this cash in it and you’re like, “whoa, whoa, what’s this for?” shares Ali, who was blown away by the no-strings-attached gift they received from the organization. 

The $200 gift was just the beginning of the support they would receive from YANA. The cash funds were made available through the Hospital Emergency Funding Program, designed to provide immediate help to families who are transferred out of the community for medical care. Nick connected with YANA shortly after they arrived in Victoria, and immediately many of their worries melted away. 

“Nicks’ like, ‘I got this email, they said they’d call us in the morning. We don’t have to pay for anything.’ “ Ali tells us, moved by the memory of how quickly and completely YANA stepped in to help with monthly financial support, as well as covering the cost of their accommodations at Jeneece Place.

And that was only the beginning for the Usher family. Blake spent 6 months in the Victoria Hospital NICU, and the family would have many more trips to come. 

“All of the appointments following him coming home started coming in. You have your neonatal follow-ups, child development, multiple surgeries”, says Ali, who feels lucky their situation wasn’t more difficult. “You think about these other kids and families that are traveling way more than us. It’s the funding to go, the gas to go, the food to go, the organization to go, the missing work to go. It’s a lot and it adds up.” 

Blake was recently discharged from the neonatal follow-up program, but the family continues to make trips to Victoria for a diagnosis the family received for him last year. 

“He (Blake) got diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy last January (2020), and so he’s had more follow-ups with an orthopedic surgeon in Victoria that we go down to see.” says Ali. The family makes many of these trips each year, and YANA’s support has made a tremendous impact, one that has trickled down to friends and family who are also eager to give back to YANA’s cause and are excited to be participating in Team McQueen for this year’s Ride. 

“This is our first year as a team fundraising all together”, says Ali. “Last year we were together, fundraising individually. We were like, why aren’t we doing this together? Let’s make a big team and let’s make as much money as we can.” 

Team McQueen, which consists of Blake’s grandmother, aunts, and other close family members, has a goal of riding 25km and raising at least $5000. The team has a route picked out that Nick tells us consists of just about every hill in Comox, and a few rest stops along the way like Point Holmes beach and Blue Haven blueberry farm. Team members will take turns pulling Blake in the bike trailer, which the team has decked out in bright signs displaying their support for YANA. 

“If you’re donating, you’re donating exactly back, dollar for dollar, right back into your community to your own friends and family”, says Ali, “you never know when you’re going to be in a situation when you’ll need YANA’s help.”

To find out more, donate, or register for this year’s ride, visit: https://raceroster.com/events/2021/48466/comox-bike-company-yana-ride

 

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