Originally published by the Comox Valley Record, April 13, 2022
by Erin Haluschack
Even though it’s been more than 35 years since she started the grassroots organization, Sandra Williams’s legacy continues to live on in the Comox Valley through YANA – You Are Not Alone.
The community organization offers help to Comox Valley families who need to travel for medical treatment for a child or for a pregnant mother, with the goal to improve access to healthcare by providing travel funding and accommodation.
“Exactly what she started with; the same mission, the same mandate, as she started then is exactly what we do now,” said Kelly Barnie, executive director of YANA on the latest episode of Off The Page, which drops April 13. “I mean, things look different, they feel different, but the support is still the same.”
Barnie talked about the challenges YANA faced with the pandemic, particularly as their models for fundraising were primarily event-based.
She credited the community for stepping up despite having so many events shut down.
“We actually did better with a lot of the fundraisers (than before COVID), because when people could have said ‘no, sorry, I can’t, I’m sorry, we just can’t support this year,’ everyone found a way to do it. That part has been the hardest part of it operationally… but the most rewarding right to show that we can come through it.
“Our families don’t have a choice of whether to take the thing that’s hard and decide to do it or not, they just do… it just has made it even more clear how important it is to be able to say, ‘yeah, we got you.’ ”
As for finding a balance between helping families with some of the worst situations they may ever face and taking care of herself and her staff, Barnie said there are times when family scenarios are particularly difficult.
“There’s some really hard situations and stories that are hard on the heart for sure. But it is very easily washed away. When we can do that follow-up email and it says every time you are not alone, just know we’re here every step of the way. And if I can reassure someone of that over the phone, it makes every one of those minutes… worth it to hear that sigh of relief from a family.”
As for Barnie’s most memorable story or family she’s worked with? You’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out.
To listen to the full episode, download Off The Page on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and everywhere podcasts are heard, or visit cvoffthepage.buzzsprout.com. New episodes of Off The Page drop every Wednesday.
To submit podcast topics or guest ideas, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The Valley Vonka and the Hot Chocolates Factory fundraiser (where 100 per cent of donations go directly to YANA) wraps up shortly – make sure to pick up your chocolate bars by donation in order to find one of six golden tickets to win an amazing prize.
Chocolate bars can be found at the Record office (407D 5th Street, Courtenay), Parker’s Appliance & More, Old House Hotel & Spa, Kingfisher Oceanside Resort & Spa, Canadian Tire, Hot Chocolates, Sure Copy Courtenay, Quality Foods Comox and Peninsula Co-op (Comox).