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/
Experiencing premature labour at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Susanne Bazett, remembers the first tears she cried. “It was when they handed me an envelope from YANA. It became so real, our baby was coming early and we would need to transfer to Nanaimo. It was overwhelming.”
YANA envelopes containing emergency cash and an invitation for further support are given to local families with a child or an expecting mother who requires emergency transfer from the Comox Valley hospital. “It is one of the ways we connect with families who need to travel for medical care.” Says YANA Executive Director, Marcie Dumais.
“That was just the start of many tears,” recalls Susanne who delivered baby Eliza just an hour after arriving in Nanaimo. Complications with the premature birth resulted in yet another transfer, this time to Victoria. The next few weeks were filled with specialists, tests, and a third hospital transfer with YANA providing accommodation wherever Eliza’s family needed to be.
Through the stress and uncertainty Susanne says one thing still stands out, “Our faith in humanity was realized. The generosity, the kindness, the compassion of strangers when we needed it most. YANA connected with us immediately and whatever happened next, they were there to help.”
Several years prior, Paula Bazett, Eliza’s aunt, became a volunteer for YANA. She helps regularly at fundraising events.
“I had been aware of YANA for many years,” says Paula. “In fact they had helped with a similar situation in my family in the past. And then again with Baby E. I was inspired by this amazing support that was offered so unconditionally.”
Dumais has this to say about volunteers, “However they come to be inspired to help YANA, our volunteers become an inspiration to us. We can’t tell you how heart-warming it is when we look around at an event and see so many people giving their time and effort to make sure YANA can sustain its support to families.”
Paula adds, “So many people I admire are involved in giving to YANA in some way. It’s great to be surrounded with like-minded people and I hope to find more ways to be involved in the future.”
“There is never an obligation for relatives or clients themselves to contribute but it consistently happens, people are compelled to participate in the circle of giving and we are grateful to be the stewards of this beautiful generosity. It is really needed particularly as our services grow,” finishes Dumais.
Baby E, as she is affectionately known, is happy and healthy and thriving at home in Courtenay. To find out more about volunteering with YANA, visit https://www.yanacomoxvalley.com/volunteer/
June 9, 2017
Natasha Ardron, experiencing premature labour, is air lifted from Comox and transferred to BC Children’s Hospital. YANA connects with the family and an apartment and support is put in place.
June 14, 2017
Natasha and Paul Ardron deliver twins, Maverick and Matthias, micro-preemies at 24 weeks, each weighing under 2 lbs.
June 18, 2017, 4 days old.
Natasha and Paul announce the birth of their boys on Facebook. Remembering those first days, Natasha says, “People immediately began to reach out to us with offers of help.” After some discussion the couple made a decision to ask that help be directed toward YANA. “Luckily we live in a community that has something in place for families, through YANA we had what we needed.”
June 20, 2017, 6 days old.
Natasha posts on Facebook asking friends and family to support YANA Comox Valley. She suggests they attend an upcoming fundraiser hosted by Salish Seafoods and donate in the twins’ name. “Through everything they were experiencing it was deeply touching to have them advocate on our behalf,” says YANA Executive Director, Marcie Dumais.
June 27, 2017, 15 days old.
Matthias Rikley Ardron, no longer able to fight against the odds, passes shortly before 9pm.
August 20, 2017, 67 days old.
Team M&M (Team Matthias and Maverick), Grandma Verna, Grandpa Gary, and friends ride in the Simon’s Cycles YANA Ride at Marina Park in Comox, raising $3,025 for Comox Valley families travelling for the medical care of a child or a pregnant mother. Team M&M inspires other cyclists and even more fundraising with the event raising $61,000. Grandma Ellie volunteers for the day. Paul visits the park in support. Dumais notes, “Being at Marina Park that day with Team M&M and other YANA families who were riding and volunteering really illustrates the circle of giving that exists around YANA.”
September 26, 2017, 104 days old.
Maverick breathes for one hour without his CPAP mask that helps inflate his lungs and deliver oxygen.
December 25, 2017, 194 days old.
Paul and Natasha celebrate Maverick’s first Christmas with nurses and staff at BC Children’s and the YANA apartments are a holiday refuge.
January 15, 2018, 215 days old.
Maverick says good-bye to his BC Children’s family and is on his way home.
February 23, 2018, 254 days old.
Paul and Natasha Ardron and family attend the YANA Big Love Benefit along with colleagues from Investors Group who help YANA by sponsoring the event. A photographic presentation of Maverick’s story is presented during the evening (https://www.yanacomoxvalley.com/stories/maverick/). $122,000 is raised for YANA.
Natasha reflects on the role of YANA in the community, “Everyone’s support of YANA came back full force to us, as well as to other Comox Valley families.”
Settling in to their ‘new normal’ at home in the Comox Valley, the Ardron family still faces some challenges, including Maverick’s chronic lung condition. They also consistently celebrate many firsts including their son’s first trail walk, first swim, first spaghetti, and the first day of spring.
To find out more about YANA events and how to get involved, visit https://www.yanacomoxvalley.com/events/