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 for 2021 Comox Bike Co. YANA Ride opens June 1

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. 

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:

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