YANA Christmas Crackers are on sale NOW!

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Published by the Comox Valley Record Nov 16, 2021

It was many years ago that YANA’s founder, Sandra Williams, gathered with friends around her own kitchen table to craft the first Christmas Crackers, all in efforts to raise money for the Comox Valley’s grassroots organization. The tradition has carried on today thanks to the many hands that contribute to pulling off a made-from-scratch batch of 5000 Christmas Crackers each year. This year’s team of 19 talented volunteers has been led by Coordinator, Robbie Rusk, who has ensured the standard and quality that folks have known year after year.

Each crafter, whether veteran or newcomer, is given thorough instruction before diving into cracker making, along with completing a “tester 10” set of crackers that are checked and approved by YANA expert mentor crafters. Each crafter then receives a kit of supplies to make between 100 – 200 crackers, the equivalent of about 10-15 hours of full-on elf-mode cracker making.

“The care and artistry that our talented volunteers put into their crafting impress me beyond all belief”, shares Kelly Barnie, YANA’s Executive Director, who tells us the community has come to expect this fundraiser each year. “Even though we had to move away from our traditional group crafting last year, our dedicated volunteers pulled this fundraiser together to make sure our happy customers get their annual supply.  Whether it’s for a special holiday dinner or as gifts for family, friends or coworkers, people sure get excited about these every year.”

Each cracker contains the usual trinkets and delights you’d expect to find, with 50 crackers containing a special prize. This year the grand prize is actually two prizes in one.  Mark the Gold Guy has generously donated a gorgeous coordinating pair of diamond rings, appraised by Tim Haley at Simply Timeless at over $5,500.  Thanks to an anonymous donor, 100% of the 2021 Christmas Cracker sales will go directly back into YANA’s funding and accommodation program, which provides support for about 400 medical trips each year for Comox Valley families.

YANA Christmas Crackers are on sale now for $3.00 each from one of 7 retail locations including Edible Island Whole Foods Market, Quality Foods Courtenay, Tin Town Cafe, John’s Your Independent Grocer, Quality Foods Comox, Comox Community Centre, or Seeds Food Market. Crackers can also be purchased online for $3.25 each (including online processing fee) at https://shopyanacomoxvalley.square.site/. Shipping and bulk orders are also possible by contacting YANA 250-871-0343 or  info@yanacomoxvalley.com.

At-home crafting of 2022 crackers will begin in January 2022. Anyone with a keen eye for detail, nimble crafting hands, and time available to help YANA is invited to reach out about helping make Christmas crackers for 2022. Please email: christmascrackers@yanacomoxcalley.com or complete the YANA Volunteer Form.

New-to-Town Family Gets a Warm, Comox Valley Welcome 

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Originally published by the Comox Valley Record – November 24, 2021
Andrea Postal, Client Services, YANA. Special to the Record

2020 was the year of uncharted territory for Nicole Vogelzang and Chris Wilson, who, in the middle of a global pandemic, packed up their life and flew across the country all while expecting their first child, anxiously excited to settle into their new home in the Comox Valley.

Along with a massive move during a turbulent time in the world, the couple was also faced with some news about their unborn son, Linden. At 26 weeks it was discovered Linden had a cleft lip, as well as some other concerning red flags and presented potential complications after he was born. At a minimum, Linden would require surgery sometime after birth, and it was uncertain where this would take place and what it would all look like for the new parents.

“We didn’t know if we were going to have to fly back to Toronto. Being our first child too, we just didn’t know what to expect. We knew that it was going to be a big challenge to have everything sorted out”, Chris explains.

It was eventually determined that the surgery would take place at BC Children’s Hospital, and through a connection at a local baby group, Nicole was pointed toward YANA to inquire about support for their trip.

“Because of the pandemic I didn’t have a baby shower or anything like that, so we were going to ask for support from our families to take our trip out to Vancouver”, Nicole says. “After I spoke to YANA they just really put me at ease and let me know we’d have help with accommodations, with food, our transportation. I just didn’t have to worry about that anymore. It was a huge relief for us.”

Many Comox Valley families have grown up around the YANA name; the organization celebrated their 35th anniversary this year. But for newcomers like Nicole and Chris, YANA is an exceptionally unique service that reflects the generosity of this special community and other local organizations alike.

“I didn’t know anyone coming here”, Nicole explains. “I’ll ask a question and a bunch of people will sort of come together and try to figure out how I can solve a problem. I just feel well supported even when I don’t know anyone here.”

Word of mouth is the way that most families first hear about YANA, Executive Director Kelly Barnie tells us, pointing out that there is always work to be done to make sure that all families know what support is available through the organization, or that support even exists.

“Many families are connecting with us for the first time because a family member, friend, a care provider or somebody else in their close circle referred them to YANA”, says Kelly. “We know there are still a lot of families that don’t know about YANA or perhaps don’t think they would be eligible for support, and we’re working to change that. It’s the community that rallies together to make YANA’s programs possible, and it’s the community that we’re counting on to continue to share about the help we are able to provide”.

For Nicole, Chris and Linden, the support they received was an unexpected and warm welcome from their new community in a time that it was needed most.

“Here, it’s almost overwhelming how much people care about each other”, says Chris.

Nicole agreed that they were caught by surprise at the generosity of so many.

“It was very, very shocking. It was a pinch-me sort of thing”, says Nicole. “There’s a lot of hands and people helping, which is amazing.”

YANA’s funding and accommodation program is available to all Comox Valley families who are required to leave the community to receive medical care for a child under 19 or a pregnant mother. To find out more about YANA, visit www.yanacomoxvalley.com or email info@yanacomoxvalley.com.

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. 

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