Celebrating 35 Years of YANA – Decades of Families, One Story

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Behind every YANA family there is a story. Behind every health challenge, every trip and appointment, there is a community rallying together to hold that family up. Each journey is different, but the feeling remains the same; no matter what, you are not alone.

April 1st marks YANA’s 35th Anniversary of serving Comox Valley Families. Through the years, through massive world changes and challenges, YANA was, is, and will always be an anchor of support and a reflection of the heart of this community, standing together to help families for decades to come.

A YANA Family Story – Kelly, Allan, & Cora

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In celebration of YANA’s 35th Anniversary we will be sharing a glimpse into the lives and stories of YANA families from across the decades, like Kelly and Allan, who encountered YANA’s support when they needed it most.

In June of 2020, Kelly Brown became critically ill and delivered her daughter Cora over 3 months early at Victoria General Hospital. During the family’s long stay away from home, YANA became the loving arms of a community that was there for them the whole way through.

“To know that we belong in the Comox Valley and have that big sense of togetherness, it’s just incredible. Sometimes you don’t feel the community is there to support you, and then you have a big fall-back, and it’s definitely there.” – Kelly Brown

Siblings both members of the YANA family

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Originally published by the Comox Valley Record – April 19, 2021

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

When Karilyn Geiger was born in November of 1990, three and a half months early, she wasn’t much bigger than a banana. Weighing in at just 925 grams (approximately two pounds) she was a tiny fighter who eventually overcame the obstacles of her premature birth.

Brian and Sandy Geiger and their two-year-old daughter, Sabrina, were in for an emotional ride when Karilyn’s early arrival required them to leave the Valley for the mainland.

“We were dairy farmers in Black Creek” Sandy explains. “It wasn’t easy picking up and leaving, and we had this little one at home.”

Sandy’s labour couldn’t be stopped; baby Karilyn was determined to come early. Sandy was sent by air ambulance to Vancouver where she delivered her premature baby. She spent the next two months in the BC Children’s Hospital NICU before being transferred to Victoria General Hospital, and then back to St. Joseph’s in Comox.

Unsure where to turn, Sandy reached out to a friend back home, Carol, who was involved with YANA, an organization that was still quite new to the Comox Valley. She was able to connect Sandra and Brian with food vouchers and a place to stay, all provided by the organization.

“To us, it was just like a godsend,” said Sandy. “It was just amazing, I didn’t know what to do, we didn’t know what to do.”

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. Our purpose is to improve access to healthcare by providing travel funding and accommodation.

It was not only YANA’s support program that helped the family but Carol’s personal support that gave them hope and light through a dark and difficult time.

“Our family didn’t want to talk,” said Sandy. “We’d previously had a baby at 24 weeks and lost her. Having one at 26 weeks, they were scared to be positive about it. Having somebody there that would help walk us through it was something you don’t expect to have to deal with. She gave that hope that she was going to be okay.”

Karilyn was OK; after a long journey and 14 weeks spent in hospital, she returned home to parents and sister Sabrina, defying the odds for an infant born so early. But the family wasn’t finished with YANA yet. In 2001 their daughter Sabrina was diagnosed with a type of skin cancer that required treatment and surgery. The family found themselves back in Vancouver, reaching out to YANA once again.

Oak Manor apartments, YANA’s downtown accommodations that many YANA families staying in Vancouver still use today, became the Geiger’s home away from home.

“We were able to have the whole family together,” said Sandy. “When Brian wasn’t able to come over I could still go over with the girls. I think it made the process a lot better.”

The family has continued to stay connected with YANA and they’re huge supporters of the organization. Brian and Sandy describe Karilyn, their now-grown-up daughter, as tiny but tough, and a big supporter of YANA as well. She works and lives in Smithers, B.C. with her husband, and her parents tell us they’re both doing really well.

“It definitely took a village for everyone to get us through this, and it worked.”

•••

There are 2,500 Valley Vonka chocolate bars available throughout the Comox Valley, with Golden Tickets randomly inserted into five of the chocolate bars.

Each golden ticket will be eligible to win one of the following grand prizes:

• Mount Washington Alpine Resort family passes

• The Old House Hotel and Spa gift certificates

• Kingfisher Oceanside Resort, Spa and Restaurant gift certificates

• Canadian Tire $1,000 shopping spree

• Peninsula Co-op $1,000 gas card.

Total value of all prizes is $7,500.

The bars are available for purchase by donation (suggested $5 donation) at:

YANA founder helps family in need: a historical account

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Originally published by the Comox Valley Record – April 14, 2021

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

The first few months of Angela Furlotte’s life were anything but easy.

In the fall of 1988 at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Angela was welcomed by big sister Melissa, and parents Heather and Tom, who couldn’t have predicted how challenging the coming months would be with the newest member of their family. It wasn’t long after Angela was born that Heather realized something wasn’t right with her little girl, who presented symptoms that doctors couldn’t identify a cause for, causing obvious pain and distress.

“I’m not exaggerating when I tell you, she cried constantly,” Heather recalls, choking up at the memory of the heartbreak and helplessness she’d felt for her baby. “Life was hell, as you can imagine.”

After many months and many doctors, a local physician identified the cause of Angela’s extreme discomfort. The diagnosis required the family to travel to Vancouver to BC Children’s Hospital, where Angela would undergo surgery at just a few months old.

Angela Furlotte had serious health issues as a baby. YANA (You Are Not Alone) helped the family with its medical expenses.

The young couple arrived with Angela and two-year-old Melissa in tow, scared and alone, with the added worry about how they would afford the trip and where they would stay. A close family friend and Angela’s godmother, Jeanette, contacted the Legion in Comox about their situation. The legion in turn contacted Sandra Williams, founder of YANA, who happened to be at BC Children’s Hospital that same day Tom and Heather arrived.

Heather recalls how it all miraculously unfolded.

“Sandra and Roberta were over at (BC Children’s) for a cardiac appointment that day. Jeanette got ahold of us and said, ‘there’s going to be a lady to meet you in the lobby…can you meet with her?’ We said ‘sure’.

“This lady came up to us, she sat down, she took my hand and she said, ‘Hi Heather, hi Tom, hi Angela and Melissa. I’m Sandra and I’m from the Comox Valley, I’m here to help you.’ We just cried.”

In those days YANA was just a small society made up of community members and volunteers who worked tirelessly to raise money for families just like the Furlottes. YANA was able to provide them with money for food and a place to stay, but most of all, they gave them the gift of support and the care of a community in a time of crisis.

It’s been 32 years since Heather’s family was helped by YANA but the feeling has held through the years. The community support was felt deeply through the hands and heart of Sandra, and Heather speaks with emotion about the memory.

“It was like a human touch, not in your weakest hour, but your hour where you don’t know what’s going to come,” said Heather. “That little angel (Sandra) came and sat down beside us… and assured us that everything would be okay.”

Angela is all grown up and in her 30s now. She enjoys her three dogs while working and living in the Comox Valley along with her parents. Heather tells us she’s doing well.

Heather and Tom have shared with Angela the story of how YANA helped them, and the connection to the organization is one Heather tells us she’ll always hold close to her heart.

“I don’t know what else to say, we’re forever grateful.”

•••

There are 2,500 Valley Vonka chocolate bars available throughout the Comox Valley, with Golden Tickets randomly inserted into five of the chocolate bars.

Each golden ticket will be eligible to win one of the following grand prizes:

• Mount Washington Alpine Resort family passes

• The Old House Hotel and Spa gift certificates

• Kingfisher Oceanside Resort, Spa and Restaurant gift certificates

• Canadian Tire $1,000 shopping spree

• Peninsula Co-op $1,000 gas card.

Total value of all prizes is $7,500.

The bars are available for purchase by donation (suggested $5 donation) at:

Preemie Born to 15-Year-Old Mother, A YANA Family From Decades Past

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Originally published by the Comox Valley Record – April 7, 2021

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

It was spring of 1994, and Megan Lacourse, at just 15 years old, had recently moved out of her parent’s home and was awaiting the arrival of her first son, when she went into labour and found herself at St.Joseph’s hospital months earlier than planned. Days later and still in Comox, her son Andrew was born in a footling breech presentation, weighing in at only 2lbs 7oz.

Andrew required help breathing, and Megan recalls the pediatrician working to keep him ventilated for more than 3 hours while they waited for the transport helicopter to arrive.

“The pediatrician here hand ventilated my son from 8:40 in the morning. They ended up flying him to Victoria, originally it was going to be Vancouver, but he was stronger than they thought he was going to be.”

While Andrew was getting medical attention at the NICU in Victoria, Megan was trying to figure out how she was going to stay and care for her son who was now 4 hours away along the old island highway, in another city. She’d heard about YANA through a friend, but it was a nurse at the hospital that first connected her with YANA’s support.

“The nurses at the nurses’ station gave me an envelope, and it had $50 from YANA and a toothbrush,” Megan explains. It was that $50 that was the start of what would be ongoing help from YANA to ensure she could travel to and stay in Victoria with her son every weekend for the 52 days he remained in the Victoria General Hospital.

“Basically we would leave every Thursday night, and go to Victoria and then come back Sunday night or Monday morning”, says Megan. “In the meantime, our vehicle broke down, so YANA supported us by paying for our hotels, as well as renting us a vehicle”.

YANA’s funding and accommodation programs provide support for about 70-80 pregnant women and infants under 1 each year. These families find themselves relocated for medical care in Nanaimo, Victoria, or Vancouver due to the limitations on Comox Valley Hospital’s ability to provide support for preterm births. Many of these families learn about YANA through the Hospital Emergency Funding Program which puts no-strings-attached funds and information about YANA, into the hands of parents who are sent out of the community from the Comox Valley Hospital, much like the envelope Megan received when her son was born.

This first point of contact, and the care and support that happens after families are set up with YANA, makes a tremendous impact both financially and emotionally for families, and this was no exception for Megan and her son.

Megan shares, “It was amazing for us. I mean, I grew up here, it’s always been a great community. But to have the solid knowing that every week we had somewhere to stay. It made it so that the financial end of it really was not an issue for us at all. Money was certainly not something we had a lot of. I honestly don’t know how we would have managed it.”

After nearly 3 months in Victoria, Andrew was released home back to the Comox Valley, and Megan emphasized how lucky he was to do so well. “He had a really smooth ride for what it could have been, considering how premature he was.”

YANA’s support didn’t end there. After returning home, YANA continued to look out for Megan and her son by providing resources to support her as a new, young mother. “They helped connect me with other services,” she explains, “there were other organizations that brought me a baby bath and bags of clothes and gift certificates, so it was more than the travel back and forth and somewhere to stay, it was connections with other organizations that were able to help us.”

Fast forward almost 3 decades, Andrew is the eldest of 5 siblings and is living and working in the Comox Valley. Beaming with a mother’s pride, Megan shares that he’s doing well. “He’ll be 27 in April, he’s a hairstylist at Chatters. He’s great.”

***

There are 2,500 Valley Vonka chocolate bars available throughout the Comox Valley, with Golden Tickets randomly inserted into five of the chocolate bars.

Each golden ticket will be eligible to win one of the following grand prizes:

• Mount Washington Alpine Resort family passes

• The Old House Hotel and Spa gift certificates

• Kingfisher Oceanside Resort, Spa and Restaurant gift certificates

• Canadian Tire $1,000 shopping spree

• Peninsula Co-op $1,000 gas card.

Total value of all prizes is $7,500.

The bars are available for purchase by donation (suggested $5 donation) at:

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