Originally published by the Comox Valley Record March 29, 2021
Andrea Postal, Client Services, YANA. Special to the Record
It’s been almost three decades since Jeanne and Ray Van Der Mark were introduced to a YANA, an organization unique to the Comox Valley, and one that has made a lifelong impact on their family and children.
YANA, which stands for “You Are Not Alone”, was founded by Sandra Williams in 1986, and has since been an invaluable resource through its funding and accommodation programs in place for pregnant women and families with children under 19, who require medical support outside of the Valley.
The Van Der Mark family found out just how special this community and the organization was in 1994 when their doctor suggested they reach out to YANA for assistance with their oldest child, who was diagnosed with bilateral clubfeet at birth and required multiple trips, surgeries, and visits to BC Children’s Hospital. They couldn’t believe the support that was available to them in a stressful time of their lives, and it was obvious that the memory still brought back the feeling, 27 years later. YANA provided them with funds to help them make the many trips they’d make to Vancouver, and it became a gift that has kept on giving.
“The best part of it was, we told them about where we were going, and we didn’t have to give receipts, we didn’t have to worry about gas or the ferry fees,” said Jeanne. “It was just such a relief.”
The family ended up being supported by YANA for many trips with their son, and again with their daughter who needed surgery for an eye condition that required them to travel again to Vancouver for the procedure and follow-up visits. Through it all, they continued to be cared for and supported by their community.
“It’s one less stress on your mind,” said Jeanne. “That was all taken away, and we could focus on the children each time. All we had to worry about was getting them there, getting them through the operation, we didn’t have to worry about anything else.”
The story doesn’t end there, because over 25 years after they were introduced to YANA, they received a call from their son-in-law, Scott, letting them know their daughter, Amber, was being transported to Victoria in preterm labour with their grandson, Ephraim; YANA was there again.
Overcome with emotion, Ray recalled the conversation from the hospital with his son-in-law, and the relief that YANA was behind their family.
“It overwhelmed me again,” Ray said. “I thought ‘wow.’ Scott said, ‘(YANA) gave me this envelope and said go, get ahold of us later.’ ” Scott and Amber had received the $200 cash emergency funding that the Comox Valley Hospital distributes on behalf of YANA to families who are sent out of the community for medical care, and immediately the family knew once again, they were not alone.
Amber and Scott ended up spending over three months in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) while their son Ephraim grew strong enough to return home, and YANA supported them throughout their time there.
The whole Van Der Mark family has become big YANA supporters, bidding on Christmas Trees each year at the Driftwood Mall at the annual Christmas Tree Fundraiser.
“We’ve continued every year bidding on trees,” said Ray. “Most of the time we’ve won two, sometimes we win one. We ended up winning three trees one year.”
The YANA Christmas Trees have become an annual tradition with the Van Der Mark family. They often end up donating their trees back to families who might not be able to afford one, and on Christmas day they do a gift exchange with their children and extended family with some of the gifts that come with the trees. The trees are a way they can give back, remember, and show their appreciation for an organization that has given their family so much and one they hope will give to others for many decades to come.
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:
- Parker’s Appliances
- Oh Spa
- Locals Restaurant
- Mount Washington
- The Kingfisher Oceanside Resort and Spa
- Peninsula Co-op
- Canadian Tire
- Old House Hotel & Spa
- Hot Chocolates
- Sure Copy
- YANA office
- Bomback & Co.
- Pilon Tools
- Mackenzie Gartside & Associates
- Blinds Bubbles Boutique
- Return-It Depot
- Brian McLean GM
- Living Room Pharmacy
- Bennett Sheet Metal
- Courtenay Nissan
- Ives Burger Law
- Hyland Precast
- CSN Reliable Auto Body
- Lara Austin – RBC Dominion Securities