General News

Another successful year for Comox Valley’s 2024 YANA Valley Vonka contest

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We are incredibly grateful for the overwhelming support from the Comox Valley Record, Hot Chocolates, and Parker’s Appliances as they wrap up this annual Valley Vonka fundraiser! Thanks to their chocolaty-heart, we’re delighted to announce that YANA is the recipient of a jaw-dropping total of $17,949 from purchasing the Valley Vonka chocolate bars featuring Olive the Orca.

To everyone who made and purchased the chocolate bars, the families who shared their stories, and the kids who participated in the coloring contest and supported this fundraiser in any way, THANK YOU for helping make this fundraiser so successful! Your support ensures that local families facing out of town medical challenges know they are not alone.

100 days in Victoria for Comox Valley family – YANA was there the entire way

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Originally published by the Comox Valley Record, March 27, 2024

Terry Farrell – Comox Valley Record

It was week 23 when Joseph Jones and Emily Johnston first found out there were complications with Emily’s pregnancy. Emily was diagnosed with placental dysfunction.

“Basically, her blood pressure was too high and it was calcifying the placenta, so the blood was not getting through it to give any nutrients,” said Joseph. “Week 23 we found out and we were in the hospital by the beginning of week 24.”

Bromley Johnston-Jones was born on April 3, 2023, at week 28, weighing only 694 grams.

“He was the youngest baby born that year,” said Joseph. “One and a half pounds.”

The parents shared different emotions once Bromley was born.

“I felt affirmation, in making the correct choices that we made, to help him have the best options,” said Emily. “But honestly I kind of compartmentalized my feelings and emotions because our condition was so critical. So I really had to focus all my energy on him. So I didn’t have a lot of feelings at the time.”

Joseph felt enough happiness for the whole family.

“I was just overjoyed, to be honest with you,” he said. “From the very beginning, when they said this was happening, I just knew he was going to be just fine. I just had it in my mind from the second they told us. I truly believed nothing was going to be wrong with him; he is going to be just fine. When he came out, yeah he was tiny, but he was just fine. There was nothing wrong with him, other than being a bit small.”

Eight months later, Bromley, Joseph and Emily celebrated their first Christmas together, and Bromley has all the energy and awareness of a typical eight-month-old.

And YANA has been with the family every step of the way.

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. Its purpose is to improve access to healthcare by providing travel funding and accommodation.

“They reached out to us almost immediately – YANA was just great,” said Joseph. “They found out we needed to stay in Victoria for possibly four months and before we even knew it they had a place for us, they had it all scheduled, rented, money in our bank for food, gas, everything. We couldn’t have done it without them. They did so much.”

“We found out on Friday that we were going to the hospital on Monday, and YANA had already contacted us and everything and were setting up (accommodations),” added Emily.

The family was in Victoria for more than 100 days. With both Joseph and Emily being self-employed, that’s a quick stop to incoming funds, for an extended period. But as Emily pointed out, ‘providing for the family comes in many forms.

“By Joseph being able to be there and help us with all the decisions, he was providing for us,” she said. “Even though he wasn’t working, he was providing for the family with his emotional support.”

Joseph said even the emotional support of knowing they weren’t on their own meant the world.

“Just knowing someone was in our corner, and there to help – it took so much stress away. Not having to find a place to live… it was all just amazing,” said Joseph. “They (YANA) were just saying ‘don’t worry about how long this takes; we are in your corner.’”

As Bromnley approaches his first birthday, Joseph said he’s a typical baby.

“He’s a little small, but everything is perfectly fine. All his organs are fine. His eyesight, his lungs, his brain. His body is at below three per cent so he is still pretty small but his head is at 48 per cent, so he has a huge noggin – a big brain.”

The family still receives help from YANA – last week they had to travel to Victoria for a check-up. YANA helped them with the finances.

The family has also given back to YANA in. various ways.

“We had a dance fundraiser when we got back and donated everything to YANA,” said Joseph. “They are such an important part of our community. It’s a great organization and it is really needed.”


The Valley Vonka – a major fundraiser for YANA, is ongoing in the Comox Valley. Businesses throughout the community are selling chocolate bars (by donation) with the chance to find one of six Golden Tickets inside the bar. A Golden Ticket qualifies the redeemer to one of six grand prizes, values anywhere from $1,000 to $3,500.

Chocolate bars are available at:

• Hyland Precast (4552 Cumberland Road, Cumberland)

• Pilon Tools (123 N Island Hwy., Courtenay)

• Margot Rutherford (981 Fitzgerald Ave., Courtenay)

• Mackenzie Gartside (525 Cliffe Ave., Downtown Courtenay)

• Bennett Sheet Metal (741 McPhee Ave., Courtenay)

• Hot Chocolates (368 5th St., Courtenay)

• Peninsula Co-op (Aspen Rodd, Comox)

• Uptown Dental Centre (Comox Mall)

• Harbourview Dental Centre – Comox Ave.

• Arbor Dental Centre (Comox Ave., Comox)

• Pharmasave (Aspen Grove Centre, Comox)

• CSN Reliable (787 Cumberland Rd., Courtenay)

• Bomback & Co (1255 C Cliffe Ave., Courtenay)

• The Flying Apron (Strathcona Plaza, Comox)

• Quality Foods (Comox and Courtenay locations)

• Canadian Tire (Driftwood Mall, Courtenay)

• Old House Hotel & Spa – (17th street, Courtenay)

• Kingfisher Oceanside Resort & Spa – (five minutes south of Royston)

• Blinds & Bubbles Boutique (located in Central Builders)

• Brian Mclean Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Hummer Ltd. (Cliffe Ave., Courtenay)

ª Parker Appliances and More – (29th Street connector, Courtenay)

YANA (You Are Not Alone) is a not-for-profit organization in the Comox Valley that helps families who need to travel for medical treatment for their children or a pregnant mother.

A lifeline for the Loewen-Sanchez family in high-risk pregnancy journey

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Originally published by the Comox Valley Record, March 20, 2024

Erin Haluschak – Comox Valley Record

Reya Loewen-Sanchez’s entry into the world was anything but ordinary. 

Her mother faced a high-risk pregnancy due to pre-eclampsia and placenta previa, conditions that posed significant risks to both her and the baby. For 61 days, the family – including dad Jordan Sanchez – found refuge with YANA’s help, receiving crucial support. 

“We ended up in the emergency with the possibility that we could lose the baby. My wife was helicoptered out to Victoria where they have a NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) and lived in the hospital for a while.” 

Jordan added YANA came to their side immediately and assisted the family in a variety of ways. It provided funds for travel as he had to drive to Victoria, take time away from work and living expenses while away from home.

“We ended up at the wonderful Jeneece Place (a home away from home where children and their families can stay while receiving medical care in Victoria) and YANA funded the stay. They covered cost of living away from home, being away from work and the cost of living there – it made a massive difference in our lives.” 

Jordan’s wife was in hospital and gave birth on Nov. 23, 2023 at 37 weeks to a healthy baby girl, and didn’t have to use the hospital’s NICU.

“I believe it’s because so much of the financial and emotional street was taken away from the entire experience (thanks to YANA) and it gave us such a wonderful start.” 

While YANA provides accommodation and support for families who need to travel outside their community for medical treatment for their children, it also offers emotional support and resources to help families cope with the challenges they face during their medical journeys. 

Overall, YANA’s mission is to ensure that families feel supported and cared for during difficult times, allowing them to focus on their child’s health and well-being. 

The Loewen-Sanchez family has since returned home to the Comox Valley. As a teacher, Jordan explained he was previously aware of YANA as some of his students had volunteered with the organization, but admitted he wasn’t aware of the level that the organization steps up for families. 

“They are so integral in our community. They made the biggest difference in our quality of life.”

YANA (You Are Not Alone) is a not-for-profit organization in the Comox Valley that helps families who need to travel for medical treatment for their children or a pregnant mother.

Family thankful for YANA support during child’s cancer treatment

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Originally published by the Comox Valley Record, March 20, 2024

Connor McDowell – Comox Valley Record

For the first time since her diagnosis, Emma Hardie is going a year without a follow-up appointment. 

Her father Robert told the Record the family has travelled to Victoria and Vancouver several times to obtain treatment for Emma, who was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Now that Emma is in good health, Robert gives thanks to the You Are Not Alone (YANA) organization, which supported the family by covering some costs of repeated travelling.

“I have nothing but great things to say about YANA,” he said. “The stuff they do for the people in Comox Valley is incredible.” 

It began for the Hardie family before Emma was born – the mother, Leah, had to stay three weeks in 2014 in a Vancouver hospital leading up to Emma’s birth. Leah had a medical complication with her heart, so the birth was sensitive and needed special care on the mainland.

Robert said YANA supported his family at this time by repaying them for some daily spending. This included food and gas and more. Robert said it was a big help to the family as staying in Vancouver was costly. 

Emma was diagnosed with cancer three years later in 2017. 

The toddler had to undergo treatment twice – cancer had spread from her kidney to her lungs. This meant the family had to travel again to big cities like Vancouver and Victoria. 

It was at this time that the Hardies again sought the help of YANA and received it, said the dad. 

“All there medical appointments kept coming up to us again and again and again,” said Robert. “Our family doctor mentioned YANA… so I just contacted them and… they said they would love to help out.” 

It’s now been five years off treatment. Robert told the Record Emma will go her first year without a medical follow-up. She’s doing great now, he said, and he couldn’t be more thankful he said that a group like YANA was offering help to his family in trying times.

YANA (You Are Not Alone) is a not-for-profit organization in the Comox Valley that helps families who need to travel for medical treatment for their children or a pregnant mother.

YANA’s compassionate mission grows with community support in the Valley

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Originally published by the Comox Valley Record, March 13, 2024

Erin Haluschak – Comox Valley Record

As the demand for services grows every year, so does the fundraising goal for the Comox Valley organization whose mission embodies compassion, support, community spirit and practical assistance when it’s needed most.

You Are Not Alone (YANA), is a local non-profit society that provides accommodation and funding to Comox Valley families who need to travel outside the community for medical treatment for a child under 19 or for a pregnant mother says Kelly Barnie, executive director.

“And we do that because the community has our back. When we email our clients and we talk to our clients and we say ‘We’ll be there every step of the way,’ your community is behind you. This is what we mean.”

YANA’s impact on the community is palpable, with countless families testifying to the difference their support has made in their lives.

The purpose of the organization is to improve access to healthcare by providing travel funding and accommodation.

What sets YANA apart is its unwavering commitment to inclusivity and accessibility. Regardless of age, background or circumstance, YANA welcomes all families with open arms, ensuring that no one in the community feels alone in their journey.

One of YANA’s most beloved programs is their accommodation facilities, lovingly known as the ‘YANA apartments.’

YANA maintains four fully furnished apartments within walking distance of BC Children’s Hospital and also assists with finding and funding accommodation in alternate treatment destinations.

These cozy, fully furnished apartments provide a home away from home for families traveling to the Comox Valley for medical treatment.

With their warm and welcoming atmosphere, the YANA Apartments offer a comforting refuge where families can rest, recharge and find solace amidst the challenges they face.

Their services are available to anyone in need, regardless of their financial situation, ensuring that everyone can access the support and resources they deserve.

Recently, YANA held an annual fundraiser which raised $232,000 for YANA families, and now the Valley Vonka fundraiser, which launched March 6, has a goal to raise $22,000.

The chocolate-bar-themed fundraiser sees 3,000 Hot Chocolate bars distributed to various retailers throughout the Comox Valley.

Six of the bars contain golden tickets for various prizes, including a $ 1,000 gas card from Peninsula Co-op; a family ski pass to Mount Washington Alpine Resort, Old House Hotel & Spa and OhSpa gift certificates; a two-night stay and a hydropath session at the Kingfisher Resort & Spa for two adults; a $1,000 Quality Foods gift card and a $1,000 gift card from Canadian Tire.

YANA (You Are Not Alone) is a not-for-profit organization in the Comox Valley that helps families who need to travel for medical treatment for their children or a pregnant mother.

Comox Valley father of premature twins grateful for YANA’s support

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Originally published by the Comox Valley Record, March 06, 2024

Olivier Laurin – Comox Valley Record

In early January, Eric Hansen and his wife Sara left the Comox Valley for Victoria. Three weeks later, they returned home with healthy fraternal twins Eilish and Kinley.

Due to the twins being slightly premature, the couple was advised to give birth in Victoria, as Victoria General Hospital houses a tertiary care facility.

They were on their way to the capital city when they were unexpectedly contacted by You Are Not Alone (YANA), a Courtenay-based not-for-profit that offers financial help to families and pregnant mothers requiring medical help for their children.

Hansen explained that upon their arrival at Victoria General, YANA promptly stepped in to cover all the couple’s expenses and arrange hotel accommodations.

Unsure about how the organization became aware of their situation, Hansen noted that the timing for this assistance couldn’t have been better.

“My family is on the East Coast of Canada and (my wife Sara’s family) is on the other side of the world, so we’re sort of on our own,” he said. “But YANA reached out and gave us the support that we needed, just as a family would. I’m even getting a little bit emotional just thinking about it because it was like a Godsend.”

YANA’s proactive approach ensured that the Hansens were constantly cared for during their stay in Victoria.

The couple explained having spent the first few nights at a hotel near the hospital, before being relocated to an even closer bed-and-breakfast.

Born on Jan. 7, shortly after 11 p.m., the newborn twins required extra attention at the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit, thus expanding the family’s stay in Victoria. Without delay, YANA facilitated their transfer to a Children’s Health Foundation residence situated within the hospital property.

“We didn’t have to worry about anything, and everything was taken care of,” said Hansen. “I was just astounded by that. They moved us into a better place as soon as they could, and it just seems like they were constantly on the ball with getting us into where we needed to be.”

Reflecting on the experience, Eric expressed numerous times his appreciation for YANA’s unwavering support.

“We never met them before, and they reached out and made everything happen without even meeting us. That’s something that just doesn’t happen anymore,” he said. “This generosity without even meeting someone – when does that ever happen? That kind of experience was priceless.”

A month and a half later, as Eric settles into his new role as a father, he looks ahead with hope and gratitude. While acknowledging that everything still feels a bit surreal, Hansen mentioned that having YANA by their side made their journey easier in countless ways.

YANA (You Are Not Alone) is a not-for-profit organization in the Comox Valley that helps families who need to travel for medical treatment for their children or a pregnant mother.

Big Love 2024 – Simply Spectacular

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Comox Valley, you are definitive proof that love knows no bounds! The Big Love 2024 event was nothing short of spectacular, and we are overjoyed to share that, together, we raised an unbelievable $232,000 for YANA families. 


“Incredible. I honestly don’t know how to explain how grateful we are for everything you’ve done for us.”

“I can’t properly express just how much it means to have this support.”

“We are forever grateful for your help and support. You have no idea how much we appreciate everything you have done. You are all simply amazing.” 


We have the honour of hearing our families tell us about the impact YANA has made in their lives. 

We have the privilege of providing the support they need because of your monumental generosity. 

We count our blessings, and we are so grateful to count on you. The YANA community is exceptional, and it’s your dedication that makes it so. From the bottom of our very full hearts, we extend our deepest appreciation to every single YANA supporter far and wide.

See more coverage of the event here: 

‘It went spectacularly well’: YANA concludes another successful Big Love Gala

YANA Big Love Gala 2024: Uniting Community, Setting Records in Comox Valley

Hottest Ticket in Town! 2024 YANA Big Love Benefit tickets on sale now

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The 2024 YANA Big Love Benefit Gala will take place on Friday, February 23rd, at the Florence Filberg Centre Signature Venue.

The event will be live-streamed as well for those who would like to attend virtually. Join us in person or online for a truly unforgettable evening of philanthropy, celebration, and community spirit!

Signature Venue tickets are $200 each. Livestream tickets are by tax-deductible donation.

Attendees will enjoy an electric evening of community connection, delicious dining and refreshments, as well as the opportunity to bid on extraordinary items and packages in both the online auction and live auction, hosted by the one and only, Dave Stevens.

The night will include a moving photo presentation captured by the talented Karen McKinnon offering a glimpse into the experiences of a YANA family deeply impacted by the generous support this community provides.

Your in-person or virtual Big Love Benefit ticket gives you exclusive access to both the FULL silent auction running from February 13-23 and the exciting LIVE auction during the Big Love event on Friday, February 23rd.

Show your support by bidding on the amazing items donated by generous individuals and businesses from around the Comox Valley and beyond. There are sure to be some fabulous items up for bid including gift certificates, experiences, getaways, local pottery and artwork, collectibles, and much, much more!

Join the community of supporters rallying behind YANA families! Every ticket purchased, every item auctioned, and every dollar donated makes a difference for a child in our community. Thank you for showing your Big Love for YANA!

More event info here:

Congratulations to our Christmas Crackers 2023 Grand Prize Winner

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As of Thursday, December 21, Crackers are SOLD OUT at ALL locations! 

Thank you to our 2023 Christmas Crackers sponsor, Somers Private Wealth of RBC Dominion Securities whose generosity allowed 100% of every sale to be directed to accommodation and travel funding support for YANA families, and to prize donors Mark the Gold Guy and Tim from Simply Timeless for their neverending sparkly support! Huge gratitude as well to all volunteers, retail location staff, and Cracker purchasers in the Comox Valley and beyond for making this fundraiser a huge success again this year!

Congratulations to our grand prize winner, Mike Englehart! Mike struck gold (or should we say gold AND diamonds!) at his daughter-in-law’s Christmas dinner, where he cracked open the winning cracker purchased from Hugh’s Independent. Talk about a festive surprise! 

But hold on, there’s more to this story! Mike and his lovely wife are gearing up to celebrate their 58th wedding anniversary on January 2nd. What better timing to win a dazzling diamond ring than right before such a special milestone? ❤️ Congratulations Mike, and a big thank you to everyone who participates in our fundraiser this year!

Comox Valley’s Holiday Spirit Shines with YANA’s Sweet Fundraisers

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With the season of giving upon us, the Comox Valley is rallying together to stand by YANA (You Are Not Alone) using both time-honoured traditions and exciting new fundraising methods. 

From November 13-19, the four Tim Hortons stores in the Comox Valley have chosen YANA as their charity partner for the inaugural National Holiday SMILE Cookie campaign. The delicious white chocolate chunk cookies with red and green baked-in sprinkles are $1.50 each, and the entire proceeds of the sales will be shared equally between YANA and Tim Hortons Foundation Camps.


Kelly Barnie, YANA Executive Director, expresses her gratitude, stating, “All the funds raised from the cookies will be used to assist our families travelling outside the Comox Valley to access medical care for their children. We’re incredibly thankful to Tim Hortons for embracing our cause with this new campaign. We’re hoping our supporters will really jump on board by pre-ordering cookies by the dozen too.”

Pre-order your cookies to share with family, friends, and neighbours, surprise your child’s sports team, daycare or class, enjoy with colleagues, serve at holiday gatherings (they can be frozen!), or perhaps keep them all for yourself – the choice is yours. 

But the sweet support doesn’t stop at cookies; YANA’s handcrafted Christmas Crackers, available starting November 12th at seven retailers across the Valley, promise even more joy. Each $5.00 cracker contains the usual delights, with 49 crackers boasting special prizes like lotto tickets and $50, $100 and $250 Quality Foods gift cards. One lucky cracker holds a 14Kt white gold ring with nine brilliant cut diamonds totalling 0.9 carats of beautiful bling.

Spreading holiday joy and making a positive impact in the Comox Valley is as simple as a quick click. 

Charitable donations to YANA can be made as gifts by visiting and clicking “DONATE.” As a donor, you’re not only giving a thoughtful present but also helping our shared community thrive. When you make your generous donation, you’ll instantly receive a heartwarming e-card that can be shared with your loved ones, ensuring your gift is a perfect fit every time.

While the Driftwood Mall Christmas Trees for YANA won’t be returning this year, YANA is thrilled to announce that the mall will be launching an all-new spring fundraiser in support of the charity. Michele Paget, Marketing Director at BGO, says, “We wanted to be able to work closely with YANA’s staff and volunteers at a time of year that would work well for them, and provide them with an infusion of donations during the months when they don’t have another major fundraising event bringing in much-needed funds for Comox Valley families”. As the holiday season concludes, stay tuned for more information about this exciting new fundraiser.

“We supported about 200 children and their families with 400 medical trips last year alone,” said Barnie. “YANA has been assisting local families for almost 4 decades, so when you purchase a cookie, a cracker, or make a donation, there’s a good chance you could be making a difference for a family you might encounter in the shopping line or while you’re enjoying your cookies and double double at Tims.”

Download Smile Cookie pre-order forms here: Tims Holiday Smile Cookie Pre-Order Form (Nov. 10 deadline)

Find a Christmas Crackers retailer list here: YANA Christmas Crackers