Thirty years ago, a little girl named Roberta became critically ill and had to be airlifted to Children’s Hospital in Vancouver. A diagnosis of congenital heart failure with severe complications changed her family’s life in an instant.
Roberta’s mother, Sandra Williams, stayed in Vancouver with her young daughter for months at a time. Roberta’s father stayed behind in the Comox Valley working and managing a household with three other children, while travelling to Vancouver whenever he could. The financial and emotional costs, during this time, were devastating to the Williams family.
Drawing from their own experiences, and after meeting other families in the same position from all over the province, the Williams family made a promise to our community. They committed to the ideal that no family should be alone when faced with having to leave their community for the medical treatment of a child.
YANA (You Are Not Alone) was founded in 1986. This grass roots organization had its humble beginnings operating out of the Williams’ home and helping one family at a time. Sandra, her friends, and her family were determined to realize the vision of keeping families together during their most difficult times.
YANA now operates out of an office on Rosewall Crescent in Courtenay. We help children and pregnant mothers residing in School District 71 who need to travel outside our community for medical care. We provide accommodation and funding to help with expenses. To date, YANA has funded thousands of trips for medical care in Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo and other locations. Last year YANA helped 141 local children, providing over $84,000 in financial assistance and covering $89,000 of accommodation expenses. Our courageous clients and their brave parents face many challenges and, in some cases, incredible heartache. YANA’s goal is to ease some of the burden. Our core belief remains unchanged since our inception; when a child is ill the whole family needs care. The Comox Valley has shared this belief for 30 years.
Sandra Williams, founder of YANA, passed away in 2009. She left a legacy of giving, compassion, and caring that has become part of the Comox Valley culture. We are proud to continue her work and to offer local families the love and support of their community.
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~ Originally published April 6, 2017 in the Comox Valley Record