We were thrilled to receive a grant from the City of Courtenay earlier this year that allowed us to do various maintenance projects at our four YANA apartments in Vancouver. Now all apartments have sofa beds in the living room, a new dining room table and chairs, new rugs, ottomans, curtains and well-functioning computers and wifi. We also added a beautiful reminder of home through local artwork by Tracy Kobus. “Every City Needs One” is a perfect addition to each apartment. The YANA apartments continue to be an important resource for Comox Valley families who need to stay in Vancouver while a child or pregnant mother has medical treatment.
We don’t have a torch to pass but we do have a well-loved shirt and we’re thrilled Deanne McRae will be wearing it and joining YANA as our new Community Relations Coordinator.
Deanne and Ocean Varney will work together for a couple weeks with Deanne starting in her full capacity at the end of May.
Welcome, Deanne! We’re so pleased you’re part of our team.
Second annual fundraiser for YANA a resounding success
From left, Comox Valley Record publisher Keith Currie, YANA (You Are Not Alone) community relations co-ordinator Ocean Varney, Bill Anglin, representing Valley Vonka title sponsor Courtney & Anglin Realty, YANA executive director Marcie Dumais, and Black Press director of product development Chrissie Bowker, celebrate the $8,079.75 raised in this year’s Valley Vonka. Photo by Terry Farrell
Friday, May 11 was a night of celebration, at a private party hosted by Hot Chocolates, in downtown Courtenay. The occasion? The prize presentations at the second annual Valley Vonka & the Hot Chocolate Factory, presented by The Comox Valley Record and Courtney & Anglin Realty in partnership with Hot Chocolates, Sure Copy, and Isla Designs.
Five lucky participants, who bought specially designed (by Hot Chocolates, of course) Valley Vonka chocolate bars found “Golden Tickets” inside the wrapping. Those tickets qualified the winner for one of five fantastic prizes.
The promotion was all in the name of one of the Comox Valley’s most recognized charities: You Are Not Alone (YANA) – a community organization that offers financial and accommodation assistance to Comox Valley families who need to travel to access medical treatment for their children.
The prizes included a family pack of gold season tickets (two adult, two children) courtesy Mount Washington Alpine Resort, as well as getaway packages from Crown Isle Resort & Golf Community, Old House Hotel & Spa, Kingfisher Oceanside Resort and Spa, and Ucluelet’s Black Rock Oceanfront Resort.
In addition to the Golden Ticket prizes, there was also a children’s colouring contest that ran concurrently. More than 200 entries were received and judges had a most difficult time selecting two winners, who each received a year’s supply of chocolate, from Hot Chocolates.
The biggest winner of the promotion was YANA, as representatives from the charity were presented with a cheque in the amount of $8,079.75.
Thanks to everyone who participated by either buying a Valley Vonka chocolate bar, or by entering the colouring contest.
Hot Chocolates owner Jorden Marshall and manager Michele Henry present the Valley Vonka colouring contest winners Grace Stegall and Louis MacDonald-Ward with their prizes: a year’s supply of chocolate from Hot Chocolates! Grace, 10, won the 6-12-year-old category, while Louis, 4, won the five-years-and-under age category. Photo by Terry Farrell.
Local mom, Samantha Ferguson, understands well the intensity of diagnosis and treatment of childhood leukemia. In 2016, at the age of seven, her son Kai was diagnosed. Two and a half years later in the fifth stage of treatment, Kai still takes oral chemotherapy daily, special antibiotics on weekends, monthly visits out-of-town for intravenous chemotherapy and quarterly trips to BC Children’s Hospital for painful chemotherapy injections.
Kai’s medical journey has been a long one and is not over. YANA has been with his family from the beginning.
“From the moment we left by helicopter from Comox to Children’s and I was handed a YANA envelope,” explains Ferguson, “We barely understood what was happening and just how much support we would need from our community.”
Lifetime Union Bay resident Joanne Tarnowski knew she was very ill when she came into the YANA office in 2016, around the time of Kai’s diagnosis, to discuss ways she could contribute. While Joanne wasn’t aware of Kai’s family sharing such a similar path to her own, she knew the challenges of being away from home with a sick child and wanted to do something significant for her community.
“My husband and I lived in Union Bay all our lives,” explained Joanne. “We married in 1958, in 1965 we bought an oyster business and started working it together.” Joanne described those early years as a lot of hard work but nothing compared to the challenge that came when her daughter got sick at two years of age.
“When Janet got sick everything happened so quickly. We went from hospital emergency here, to Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.”
Janet’s illness would culminate in a long hospital stay and an operation.
“At that time we didn’t have much money or help,” states Joanne. “There was no YANA then. It was a scary time and a lonely time.”
Janet recovered and eventually thrived and started her own family. In 1995, Janet and her husband, Bruce, welcomed their son, Dallas. When Dallas was six he was diagnosed with leukemia.
“We were floored,” Janet remembers. “The helplessness, the anxiety, it’s like time stopped. In that moment I understood what my own mother had gone through.”
Janet and Bruce began the heart wrenching journey of caring for their child through his intense treatment, experiencing much of the same stress that Kai’s parents face.
“In the beginning we made a promise; we would tell Dallas every day how much he was loved; he would never be left alone,” says Janet. They juggled work, care of their youngest son, and took shifts at the hospital. “We kept our promise,” says Janet.
In 2004, Dallas finished treatment and is now a healthy young man who understands the importance of giving.
“Looking back, I don’t remember the fear or the sadness. I remember my family, being together, feeling loved and secure,” says Dallas. “We were lucky to have that, our family wants that for others.”
Donor Joanne Tarnowski born October 14, 1939 passed away March 2, 2018. Joanne and her family created an annual legacy gift to YANA with the commitment of keeping Comox Valley families, like Kai’s, together during medical treatment away from home.
Reflecting on her past, Joanne said, “You are not alone. Those words mean a lot to me. I love YANA. I always have.”
To find out more about supporting YANA through monthly, annual, or legacy gifts visit https://www.yanacomoxvalley.com/donate/