General News

YANA rolls out plans for 2021 virtual Big Love Gala

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Published in the Comox Valley Record December 22, 2020

It’s the year of reinvention for the way we collectively do things, from family gatherings to classes and workshops, and especially any kind of large-gathering events, coming together looks a little different right now.

For a charity like YANA (You Are Not Alone), gathering together has been an integral piece of their community support building and fundraising, especially at events like their annual sell-out gala, The Big Love Benefit, YANA’s largest campaign event of the year which generates almost 40% of the funds needed for their funding and accommodation programs.

Last year’s event was a smashing success, raising $166,000 through ticket sales, donations, draws and auctions. Two weeks later the world shut down and it became clear that the 2021 Big Love gala would not likely take shape in its usual form. Kelly Barnie, YANA’s executive director, spoke to this unfolding reality and the implications it could have on YANA’s ability to continue supporting Comox Valley families.

“Not holding our largest fundraising event of the year would likely put YANA in the position of having to say ‘no’ to families, or to be unable to support at the level we typically do. As always, our amazing volunteer committee stepped up in unanimous agreement that there was no way we could let that happen. They were committed as ever to finding a way to move forward with as many of the components of the annual gala fundraiser as possible, in a safe, flexible way that allows for maximum individual choice about how to join in the magic experience that is the Big Love Benefit.”

After many minds spent many hours back at the drawing board to re-invent this event in COVID-friendly fashion, YANA has rolled out their plans for this years’ gala event. It’s set to be better than ever, opening up even greater possibilities for supporters from all over to join the cause and witness the love and generosity that is shown each year.

“In some ways, COVID is forcing us to solve the problems we’ve always had and never come up with a way to overcome,” says Barnie. “When you sell out an event in 3 seconds, there are countless YANA supporters that want to get on board, but can’t. It’s opened up the event far and wide for anyone to help YANA. April 1, 2021 marks YANA’s 35 year anniversary. There are 3 and a half decades of YANA families and their circle of supporters out there. You can’t fit that many people in a room together, but you can have them join a live broadcast together, experiencing it as one, in different locations across the Valley and beyond.”

The event itself, as well as the auctioning of generously donated items, will all be done virtually. Event attendees will be able to view the live virtual program and bid in the online auction in one of 3 ways: attending one of eight Champion Sponsor-hosted restaurants in their Safe Six group, attending one of twenty Supporter Sponsor-hosted Safe Six home parties, or by making a donation to receive a link so they can enjoy the virtual event and participate in the silent and live auctions from the comfort of their own home.

Kelly Rusk, YANA’s board committee president, points to the bright silver lining in all of this.

“The online event platform we’re using allows everyone to experience the energy, stories, presentations and celebrations from any location. It even has video and chat interaction features so we can virtually connect between venues! We know it’s not the same as being able to hug and visit and laugh with 300+ people, but virtually speaking, we’re hoping this is the next closest thing.”

Every ticket purchased, every auction bid, every big and small donation helps toward this important fundraiser, and especially so thanks to generous sponsors who cover the costs of the event so that 100% of the money raised goes directly to YANA’s travel funding and accommodation programs for families. Long term sponsor Brian McLean Chevrolet Buick GMC is helping every dollar donated make an even bigger impact this year. Every time someone makes a donation to receive the link to the live event broadcast and auction, the dealership will match the donation, dollar for dollar, up to $15,000.

The online auction opens February 16th and runs until the night of the gala on February 26th. Restaurant venue tickets, and “link by donation” tickets will be available at yanacomoxvalley.com starting January 17th at 10am sharp. YANA supporters everywhere are encouraged to join in no matter how much you have to give, no matter where you’re giving from.

“More than ever, this year, we want everyone to be in a position to experience the love that surrounds this event. Whether you can donate a little or a lot, we want you to share in the magic that is Big Love. We’re all hoping that 2021 brings much more positive to our world, and we’re excited to start the year with something like this. It’s been a major undertaking for our staff and volunteers to toss the script and start from the beginning, and we hope that the community will come together to rally behind YANA families like never before.”

See https://www.yanacomoxvalley.com/yana-event/auction/ for event information.

YANA Christmas Crackers on sale in stores and online

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Originally published by the Comox Valley Record Nov. 15, 2020

The 2020 YANA Christmas Cracker Campaign is kicking off again, and like most things right now, this year’s fundraiser looks a little different. The usual cracker making gatherings were cancelled due to the pandemic situation and social distancing measures, but the efforts continued, led by volunteer campaign coordinator, Robbie Rusk. Her dream team of cracker crafters came forward to take supplies home and they pulled together to assemble the 5000 crackers throughout the COVID lockdown in the Spring. 

Crackers are ready for purchase at seven retail locations, as well as in the online store just launched. YANA Executive Director Kelly Barnie shared the shift in approach to this year’s campaign, and the measures they’ve taken to ensure the fundraiser is both safe and successful. 

“Like everything fundraising and life in general, this year’s cracker campaign has required us to adjust and adapt. We’ve limited our distribution locations to businesses with strong COVID protocols in place for walk-in business, as well as to places most likely to remain open if restrictions increase again. We also started an online store, where buyers can choose to purchase and pick-up at YANA’s office on Rosewall Crescent, or to have their crackers directly shipped to the location they choose. We know that many businesses and individuals are thinking about the approaching tax season and the contributions they want to make, and the online store makes it easy to add an additional donation and receive a receipt for the 2020 tax year.”

The hand-crafted crackers are $3.00 each and contain traditional trinkets and jokes. Fifty crackers contain special prizes donated by local businesses, including the Grand Prize of a gorgeous 18kt gold diamond Cavelti ring generously donated by Mark the Gold, appraised at $2835.00 by Tim Haley of Simply Timeless.

Last year YANA supported 172 families and 433 medical trips for Comox Valley families who required medical care outside of the community. Because of the generous sponsorships from Paul Ardron and Kirk Campbell of IG Wealth Management, 100% of the cracker proceeds go directly to the continued support that YANA provides for our community and families. 

YANA Christmas Crackers are on sale now, and sell out quickly every year. They can be purchased at Edible Island Whole Foods Market, Seeds Food Market, Tin Town Cafe, John’s Your Independent Grocer, Comox Community Centre, Quality Foods in Comox and Courtenay and through YANA’s Online Store. Bulk orders as well as cash donations can also be done at the YANA office at 102, 2456 Rosewall Cres on Tuesdays and Thursdays 10:00am to 2:00pm. 

For more information, and to purchase YANA Christmas Crackers online, visit https://www.yanacomoxvalley.com/yana-event/christmas-crackers/ 

Connor’s Home Away from Home

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To honour client confidentiality, this composite “based-on-real-life-events” story has been written by Andrea Postal from the YANA Client Care Team including details, experiences and emotions from several of the clients who have stayed in our YANA apartments in the last year. Stock photo.

Dusk is falling on the water and I look to see Connor’s face pressed up against the window watching the dock become more than a dot in the distance as we near the familiar mainland shore. I scolded him for the dozenth time. “How many kids before you smeared their face up against the same window? Germs, Connor, you can’t have anyone else’s but your own right now”. It’s the second time this month we’ve ferried across these waters and it’s the one thing that still holds some novelty and sparks some joy on these trips for my 6-year-old son, who almost a year ago suddenly found himself with a cancer diagnosis, losing most of what knew in his comfortable little world: his bed, his room, his friends and even pestering little sister, playgrounds, movie theatres, swimming pools, his childhood in every sense it should be for a 6-year-old boy. Every day I long for normalcy in his upturned life, but I’m not even sure he remembers what normalcy is. A year is a lifetime for a 6-year-old, and it’s been a long one for all of us. 

Our family received Connor’s diagnosis after months of unexplained fatigue, dizziness, and recurring fevers and infections that were given no explanation until that day that they were; it was Leukemia, the L-word, the one no parent wants to hear uttered over their child. 

There isn’t a family that believes it could be them and we were no exception, but there we were sitting in our GP’s office, accepting the unfolding reality of what we found ourselves in, a life we couldn’t have imagined; our life, our world as we knew it, was suddenly changed. 

In a whirlwind of tests, appointments, and imminent plans for treatment to begin, the numbers started stacking up and so did questions of how we would make this all work. Who would go? Where would we stay? Do we keep working or quit our jobs? Do we change schools, move our family? Connor’s extensive treatment plan was going to determine the next few years of our life, and our heads were spinning with the decisions we were being forced to make, and quickly. 

The day after receiving Connor’s diagnosis we found ourselves packing our bags with a week’s worth of clothes, toys, and a few comforts from home. It would be just Connor and I on this trip. Jack, Connor’s dad and his sister Maeve would stay behind while we sorted out our next steps. After an uneventful trip to Vancouver, we arrived at BC Children’s Hospital for our first round of extensive testing and treatment, all within 48 hours of Connor’s diagnosis. I still remember the smell of the hospital air walking through those doors for the first time, it was the scent of illness and a complete loss of control, one that would become a familiar and bitter kind of nostalgia. 

In the midst of it all, we did find a silver lining, and it would change the course of the next year for us. It was during a meeting with Anne, our appointed oncology social worker, that the suggestion of reaching out to YANA came up. We knew the name, a friend of ours was supported by YANA after their premature baby was airlifted to Vancouver a few years back. She spoke passionately about the organization and the overwhelming support that was provided during their extensive NICU stay. We had no idea how impacted we would also be by this organization and the support they would soon offer us.

It was a quick phone call to their office and a huge piece of our complicated puzzle was solved. YANA would not only be providing us with daily funds we could use to cover any one of the many expenses we would incur, they also offered to provide us with a one-bedroom apartment near the hospital, just a 20-minute walk door to door. No matter how long our treatment, no matter how many trips or how many months we would be required to be away from the Valley, we would have a home away from home. 

A YANA volunteer on the ground in Vancouver met me at the hospital the next day with keys and a letter explaining the use of the apartment. I took in whatever information I could while she sweetly described details I couldn’t quite absorb. All I knew so clearly in that moment was that we were not alone, this organization and our community back home had our backs and would be a huge part of the story of how we made it through. 

After more sleepless nights on a cot in Connor’s hospital room than I care to remember, we were finally given a pass to leave the hospital between treatments. Connor’s dad and sister had come across with some of our things and they were waiting for us at the apartment when we arrived that first night. Connor and I stood in the cold for a moment outside the downtown Vancouver building and took it all in. It wasn’t much of a sight, it was weathered and old and looked to have seen better days in decades past, but I could feel it was a gift and would become something like home. 

We let ourselves in and climbed the stairs carefully to the second floor. Connor was more tired and weak than ever. He didn’t complain, he just moved slowly. I scooped him up in my arms at the top and carried him down the long hallway. The floors were worn, the paint was thick and chipping off the walls, and it smelled of curry and old carpet. I tapped on the door and took a deep breath, I could feel Connors own breath on my neck, his chest lifting on and off mine and his warm head on my shoulder. Jack let us in and wrapped us up in his arms, kissing us each on the head as we moved our tired bodies through the door to our new home. 

The inside was nothing like the rest of the building. It was lovingly cared for with enough art and furnishings to make it feel like home. The kitchen was stocked with the dishes we would need to cook our own meals, and a dining room table and chairs to the side. The living room was set up simply with a couch, a TV, ottoman, small desk, and a lamp in one corner of the room. Jack brought over my favourite monstera plant and set it up in the corner along with a ficus and a blossoming orchid. Jack had arranged family photos on the side table, and a small rug under the coffee table and couch pillows on the couch from our family rec room. A slew of Connor’s toys and craft supplies were piled up in two bins in the living room, along with a sack of stuffed animals that would soon be a strewn arrangement across our bedroom. 

The living room couch pulled out to a bed.  Jack and Maeve slept on it the first couple of times they visited on the weekends, but the camping mattress provided ended up working better than the old hide-a-bed which turned out to be uncomfortable and a bit broken.  Jack and I would share the two twin beds in the bedroom, which Jack insisted we push together. We covered it with the sheets provided and a colourful, king-sized quilt Jack’s mother had made for our wedding. The bed and mattress weren’t the comfort from home that I was used to, but it was enough to be close to my boy in a room of our own. It was these small pieces from our life on the other side of the water that set all of us at ease through all the newness and changes and difficult days to come.

The 10 months that followed those first days are a blur, each one tired and long with doctors and social workers, tests and treatments. The hard days outnumbered the good ones for Jack as he endured treatments and side-effects that made life anything but easy, those 10 months were a dark and difficult season I know we’d both rather forget. 

But it was the small things that counted for us both. The store around the corner became our local grocer, and the deli across the street or the pizza place a block away became our usual Friday take-out. There was a park nearby that we’d walk to on Connor’s good days, we’d sit on the bench and watch the season’s change and the people come and go. We had a warm place to turn in to, with internet and cable TV to entertain us and keep us connected, and our own spot to curl up on at night. Our circumstances were hard, but our needs were met and our hearts felt so full of gratitude for all of the things that made us feel at home. 

It was about mid-way through Jack’s treatment that we were cleared to go home for a little over a week to celebrate his birthday and spend some time as a family. That same week, YANA contacted us about some upgrades that had just been approved for the unit we were staying in. While the apartment had served the needs that we had, we were thrilled to learn that there would be some much-needed improvements made, like new flooring, mattresses, and some new furnishings.

The renovations were scheduled to take place during our week away, and we were blown away coming back to the changes that had been made. The old carpet was replaced with beautiful, new laminate flooring. Beyond the ease of a quick Swiffer or mop to clean the new floors, no more carpet meant that I didn’t have to clean so deeply and so often. Jack was now immune-compromised, and bare floors were much easier to sanitize and maintain the level of cleanliness that he needed. 

A brand new, modern sofabed couch replaced the old one, which Jack and Maeve had opted out of sleeping on after a short few nights. We were a bit skeptical of any hide-a-bed, but the first night sleeping on this new comfy mattress and they were sold.  A large desk, new office chair, and under-chair-mat were added to the living room which made for a dedicated, comfortable place Jack and I could do our remote-work between treatments and taking turns caring for Connor. In the bedroom, the old mattresses were replaced and the new ones were a welcome change for both of us. Our sleep was broken on a good night, between Jack being sick from treatment side-effects and my tossing and turning to get back to sleep on a mattress that had seen better days, the new ones made all the difference. These things may seem insignificant to some, but they made this space a more comfortable place to call home, and that meant the world to us. 

Fast forward to today, and although our life is far from normal, we have come a long way. 

The arrival announcement comes over the ferry speaker, I can almost recite it word for word. Peeling Jack away from the window one more time, we make our way down the vehicle deck before making our last leg to the mainland. This is our final stretch before we go into maintenance; Jack’s been allowed longer stays at home and now he’ll have shorter trips across a couple of times a month, but this should be our last stay in the home we’ve made in our Oak Street suite. 

This week has been an easier week than most. Jack’s energy is coming back and we’ve been taking more walks to the park and playing Candy Land before bed every night. We’re all so ready for more time in our beds with our own things and time together as a family, but we will look back on this part of our time with hearts full. After a long day of paperwork and appointments at the end of our week, we are given the green light to pack up the apartment. Jack and Maeve come across and take a car-full of most of the things we’d brought over to make this place our home.  A Swiffer and wipe down of the cupboards, surfaces and bathroom, and the place was clean and ready for another family to use. I appreciated so much the ease of how quick and easy it was to clean, it was the last thing I wanted to do after a tiring day or long week, but it had become a simple chore. 

Although we’ll spend many nights still in this apartment, it’ll no longer be our home, instead, it will be a safe, warm, and clean place to lay our heads at night for these shorter treatments over the next little while. There will be other families with sick children, long days, and uncertain times coming and going from this same suite, and it will no doubt be a gift to them as it was to our family. This place has been the difference between feeling supported and feeling alone, and we most certainly know we are not alone.

YANA here for children of ALL ages – Ephraim, Age 11 months

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Comox Valley family a second-generation YANA family

Originally published by the Comox Valley Record Sept. 28, 2020

Andrea Postal, Client Services, YANA.  Special to the Record

It was early on a fall morning that Amber Van Der Mark recalls being woken up by labour pains, a whole 2.5 months before her due date. After a phone call to the midwife and an assessment at the hospital, it became clear that Amber and her partner Scott’s first baby was going to be joining their family far sooner than they expected, and far from home, too. At just 28 weeks and two days pregnant, Amber was airlifted that evening to Victoria General Hospital, the closest hospital on the Island that provides for infants born so early.

These are not circumstances anyone imagines bringing their baby into, but YANA sees these cases on a regular basis. In the Comox Valley, labour before 37 weeks requires mothers to deliver in Nanaimo, Victoria, and in some cases, Vancouver. Amber shared about the overwhelming feeling to receive the news that she would be leaving the Valley to give birth, and the many unknowns about the weeks and months ahead with a preemie.

“When Scott and I were in Victoria those first two days not knowing when our son would be born, not knowing how long we would have to stay there, it would stress us out,” Amber said. “We were worried about our son coming early, we were worried about eating away through our savings, especially since we just bought a new house; we got the keys to the house the day Ephraim was born. We were worried about where we would be staying and the cost that would come with that. That was until we got a hold of YANA. The best way I can describe how I felt after Scott relayed the conversation he had with one of the representatives from YANA, was as if I just came up from underwater for days and got my first breath of fresh air. My whole body relaxed, my mind at ease, I started to cry.”

Ephraim was born just six days after their arrival in Victoria, a tiny but healthy one-pound, 13-ounce baby boy who Amber described as “a strong boy and a fighter.” Ephraim made amazing progress as the days went by, checking all of the boxes and meeting milestones, but it would still be 69 long days in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) for the new family.

Amber expressed how incredible it was to receive support from YANA throughout their time, and how much more meaningful the support felt because of her parents’ history with YANA. Amber’s family had received the ongoing support of YANA almost three decades ago, something that suddenly became so much more appreciated and understood through her own experience.

“Back in 1990 when our family moved to the Valley, my brother needed to spend some time in the Children’s Hospital in Vancouver for surgeries and back then YANA had supported my parents. From then until my brother reached his late teens YANA was there supporting. Years later, my parents gave back by bidding on YANA’s Christmas trees. I never really thought about how much those donations to YANA my parents made really did mean, not until we were in the NICU and YANA was there to support us. In a way it has done a full circle. YANA helped my parents, my parents donated to YANA, and YANA was there to help us.”

Amber and Scott were blown away when YANA came through again after a sudden transfer to the Nanaimo hospital for the final nine days of their NICU journey. Though they were closer to home, they couldn’t imagine being an hour away from their son, never mind needing to travel down to visit him each day.

“The problem was solved with one phone call.” Amber explained. “YANA had arranged for us to stay in a motel until they could find us a bed and breakfast that was close to the hospital. Again, all I had to worry about now was seeing my son, Scott and I had a place to stay in Nanaimo, it was all taken care of with the help of YANA.”

From penny drives in years past, to Valley Vonka chocolate bars, and the countless other community fundraisers that take place each year, it is this Valley’s dedication to keep showing up that lets families know that no matter what they face, they are not alone. It’s because of the decades of commitment from individuals in our community who step up to provide in ways both big and small, that families like Amber and Scott’s, can be supported through challenging times.

“I cannot express how grateful both Scott and I are from the love we have of this community. We cannot thank everyone enough for their continued support and donations to YANA. I look at my son every day and just realize how lucky we are to live in a community where everyone is there for everyone.”

The annual Valley Vonka fundraiser in support of YANA is now in full swing.

Chocolate bars are available for purchase (by donation), with “Golden Tickets” randomly inserted inside five Valley Vonka chocolate bars.

Finding a Golden Ticket gives you a chance at one of five great grand prize packages, from Mount Washington Alpine Resort; The Old House Hotel & Spa; Kingfisher Oceanside Resort; Canadian Tire; and Peninsula Co-op.

Chocolate bars are available at:

• Comox Valley Record office

• Ashley Furniture Homestore

• Old House Hotel, OhSpa, Locals Restaurant

• Mount Washington Alpine Resort

• Kingfisher Oceanside Resort & Spa

• Peninsula Co-op (Aspen Location)

• Canadian Tire

• Hot Chocolates

• Sure Copy

• Bomback & Co.

• Blinds and Bubbles Boutique

• Living Room Pharmacy

• Margot Rutherford Notary

• Mackenzie Gartside

• Pilon Tools

YANA here for children of ALL ages – Wes, Age 4

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YANA’s ability to adjust on the fly a huge stress relief for the Szabo family

Originally published by the Comox Valley Record Sept. 27, 2020

Andrea Postal, Client Services, YANA.  Special to the Record

Organization provided support for Wes, 4, and his family

Westley Szabo is a bright and curious four-year-old boy who loves the solar system, can name all of the planets and most of their moons, knows his alphabet and numbers to 20, and delights in spending his hours on the beach by the ocean, a place that mother Jacklyn refers to as “Wes’s happy place.”

Wes was recently diagnosed with autism and global developmental delay, a discovery that has provided answers and insight for his parents Jacklyn and Andrei, after a long and confusing search to understand both the physical and cognitive challenges that presented when Wes was very young.

“When we first started Wes’s journey, we were led to believe he had a genetic condition, Goldenhar Syndrome,” explains mother Jacklyn. “This led to multiple appointments out of town and started us on our medical journey with him. He’s seen a cardiologist, ophthalmologist, ENT, geneticists, undergone surgery, and more recently been through an autism assessment that has led us to his diagnosis. The journey to get these answers is what led us to where we are now. These appointments are hard to get, and you want to be able to say YES each time one calls to let you know you need to come in. I can say yes each time because YANA makes it possible to do so.”

YANA has not only provided support for many trips the family has made for these out-of-town appointments, but they have also been a source of significant comfort and help through some of the more difficult trips the Szabo family has made for their son. Jacklyn recounts the relief she felt when YANA came through again during a particularly stressful time for their family after Wes experienced some complications following surgery at Victoria General Hospital.

“We came to stay at Jeneece Place because our son needed surgery at the hospital. We were supposed to be in and out in one day. He wasn’t recovering well, and I, of course, was very stressed out as we couldn’t leave the hospital, and YANA had only planned a one-night stay. I was so anxious as I laid next to my son worrying about what we were going to do. I got a hold of YANA and they took that stress on and figured it out. We were able to stay where we were until he was able to go home. I remember the panic literally leaving my voice when I found out we didn’t have to worry.”

There is no doubt that life is anything but simple for Wes and his family, with daily challenges, appointments, therapies, and the ongoing learning curve of caring for and supporting a child with diverse needs, an awareness that Jacklyn hopes to see more of in our community.

“My hope for all children who are neurodiverse in the Valley is more accessibility, compassion and inclusion, and for families like ours to know YANA exists for families just like ours.”

“I always say ‘I’ll never leave this place’ to my family and friends. I say that because we’ve experienced generosity, kindness and inclusion from our home here. We are never alone when we leave the Valley for care. It feels like the Valley is going with us when we have to leave. We know quite a few small businesses and individuals who support YANA, and I hope they know they are part of our story now.”

For more information, visit https://www.yanacomoxvalley.com/get-support/

***

The annual Valley Vonka fundraiser in support of YANA is now in full swing.

Chocolate bars are available for purchase (by donation), with “Golden Tickets” randomly inserted inside five Valley Vonka chocolate bars.

Finding a Golden Ticket gives you a chance at one of five great grand prize packages, from Mount Washington Alpine Resort; The Old House Hotel & Spa; Kingfisher Oceanside Resort; Canadian Tire; and Peninsula Co-op.

Chocolate bars are available at:

• Comox Valley Record office

• Ashley Furniture Homestore

• Old House Hotel, OhSpa, Locals Restaurant

• Mount Washington Alpine Resort

• Kingfisher Oceanside Resort & Spa

• Peninsula Co-op (Aspen Location)

• Canadian Tire

• Hot Chocolates

• Sure Copy

• Bomback & Co.

• Blinds and Bubbles Boutique

• Living Room Pharmacy

• Margot Rutherford Notary

• Mackenzie Gartside

• Pilon Tools

YANA here for children of ALL ages – Eliza, Age 8

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YANA support a source of ‘instant relief’ for mother and daughter in need.

Originally published by the Comox Valley Record Sept. 15, 2020

Andrea Postal, Client Services, YANA.  Special to the Record

Mother recalls the day she was required to leave the community for daughter’s health

Lindsay Dalley, Comox Valley resident and mother of four, wasn’t anticipating that a trip to the ER was going to turn into a transfer to Victoria General Hospital for her daughter Eliza, who developed a serious infection that required a treatment not offered at the Comox Valley Hospital.

Eliza was diagnosed with a difficult to treat strain of infection called actinomycetes following a surgery she’d recently undergone. After seeing no improvement in the infection from oral antibiotics, it was determined that Eliza required IV antibiotics and a PICC line, a procedure that needed to be done in the pediatric unit of Victoria General Hospital.

Lindsay recalled the day she received the news they would be required to leave the community for Eliza’s health.

“I had asked on a moms’ group what items I should bring for a stay at the Victoria hospital and that was when I had been told that I should contact YANA for financial support,” said Lindsay. “My husband was away at work in Alberta, I had done our bi-weekly grocery shop and filled the car with fuel; we are a one-income household and payday was the following week. I literally had under $100 left when we got the call to go to the Victoria hospital. We were told to pack for two, possibly three days. I didn’t think much about it and would just make it work, and then when we got there I was told she would be there at least five days. I slept on the couch with my toddler in her room that first night.

“The following day is when I was able to contact YANA and they made arrangements for us to stay at Jeneece Place next door. It was an emotional roller coaster for sure when I realized I had no way to pay for a place or food for a stay of at least five days; it was instant relief when I got in contact with YANA.”

This kind of trip isn’t uncommon for Comox Valley families to make when their children require treatment not offered in the community, but the sudden and emergent need to go can leave families feeling helpless as they face many challenges. Things like arranging and covering the costs of travel, parking, accommodations and food, add up quickly. They can weigh on a family a lot, especially with the stress and worry that comes along with having a sick child.

Executive Director Kelly Barnie remembers receiving the voicemail from Lindsay and talking on the phone with her on a Saturday morning while she was in the room with Eliza, who was struggling to be able to swallow the meds she had to take.

“I could hear the worry in Lindsay’s voice so clearly, but also the amazing mama bear strength she was mustering for her little girl,” said Barnie. “The stress of needing to help her take the pills that she needed to take at that moment, but also the weight of what the future would bring because of this rare infection, made my heart ache for her. I was so incredibly grateful then, as I am every time I explain the support YANA provides, that we are lucky enough to live in a community that comes together so strongly in support of our children and families.”

Months later, Eliza is still receiving treatment after a nearly year-long course of antibiotics, and the family continues to wait anxiously for a surgery that will hopefully resolve the problem for good. In the meantime, Lindsay knows she can reach out to YANA along the way for anything from surgical consults through to post-op check-ups, with the assurance that YANA will be there the whole road, and that thanks to a community that rallies together for families, they are not alone.

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.

For more information, visit https://www.yanacomoxvalley.com/get-support/

•••

The annual Valley Vonka fundraiser in support of YANA is now in full swing.

Chocolate bars are available for purchase (by donation), with “Golden Tickets” randomly inserted inside five Valley Vonka chocolate bars.

Finding a Golden Ticket gives you a chance at one of five great grand prize packages, from Mount Washington Alpine Resort; The Old House Hotel & Spa; Kingfisher Oceanside Resort; Canadian Tire; and Peninsula Co-op.

Chocolate bars are available at:

• Comox Valley Record office

• Ashley Furniture Homestore

• Old House Hotel, OhSpa, Locals Restaurant

• Mount Washington Alpine Resort

• Kingfisher Oceanside Resort & Spa

• Peninsula Co-op (Aspen Location)

• Canadian Tire

• Hot Chocolates

• Sure Copy

• Bomback & Co.

• Blinds and Bubbles Boutique

• Living Room Pharmacy

• Margot Rutherford Notary

• Mackenzie Gartside

• Pilon Tools

YANA here for children of ALL ages – Evan, Age 15

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YANA support ‘life-changing’ for Corinne and Evan

Originally published by the Comox Valley Record Sept. 6, 2020

Andrea Postal, Client Services, YANA

Special to the Record

Valley Vonka fundraiser now on at participating sponsors throughout the Comox Valley

Each month, 15-year-old Evan and his mother Corinne climb aboard Hope Air in order to fly to BC Children’s Hospital where Evan undergoes an IV treatment for Crohn’s disease, a chronic illness that for a time, robbed some of the normalcy of childhood like birthday parties, sleepovers, even school.

The monthly trips to receive treatment have been life-changing for Evan’s health, and have been made much more accessible because of YANA’s support over the last five years.

Corinne and her son Evan moved to the Island with their family in 2015, a year after Evan’s diagnosis and many exhausting and expensive trips to BC Children’s from the remote community they were living in.

“When your child is first diagnosed with an illness, you are primarily worried about the child and keeping your family together,” said Corinne. “I chose to move our family from a small isolated community with limited resources to the Comox Valley to be closer to Evan’s doctor, pediatrician, and BC Children’s Hospital.”

Shortly after the family arrived in the Comox Valley they were introduced to YANA, and immediately felt the support of the community.

“Once we connected with YANA, there was relief knowing there are other families going through similar experiences. YANA is a community within a community. With YANA’s support, I knew I was not in this alone.”

Trips to Vancouver are not only a financial burden on families, but can be incredibly taxing on a child as sick as Evan was. Corinne explained that at times, Evan wasn’t physically capable of taking the sky train back to the airport after a treatment. The relief she felt to be able to use YANA funds to call a taxi allowed Corinne to focus on Evan and his health without worrying over travel costs.

The family not only sings the praises for the assistance they’ve received from YANA, but have been involved in various YANA fundraisers over the years. Corinne’s brother-in-law Corey, just cycled a whopping 300 kilometres for this year’s hugely successful YANA Ride, raising donations to give back to an organization that has given so much to his nephew.

Evan and his family are celebrating some big news. At his most recent treatment appointment, they found out Evan is officially in remission and the relief is huge. He will still require monthly treatments to stay in remission, and YANA will continue to walk by their side and provide help every step of the way.

“It takes a community to raise a child,” says Corinne. “We feel honoured to be a part of the YANA family, and could not do this journey without them.”

YANA (You Are Not Alone) is a local charity offering help to Comox Valley families who need to travel for medical treatment for a child or for a pregnant mother. YANA improves access to healthcare by providing travel funding and accommodation for families of babies to teens, and all ages in between.

For more information, visit https://www.yanacomoxvalley.com/get-support/

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The annual Valley Vonka fundraiser in support of YANA is now in full swing.

Chocolate bars are available for purchase (by donation), with “Golden Tickets” randomly inserted inside five Valley Vonka chocolate bars.

Finding a Golden Ticket gives you a chance at one of five great grand prize packages, from Mount Washington Alpine Resort; The Old House Hotel & Spa; Kingfisher Oceanside Resort; Canadian Tire; and Peninsula Co-op.

Chocolate bars are available at:

• Comox Valley Record office

• Ashley Furniture Homestore

• Old House Hotel, OhSpa, Locals Restaurant

• Mount Washington Alpine Resort

• Kingfisher Oceanside Resort & Spa

• Peninsula Co-op (Aspen Location)

• Canadian Tire

• Hot Chocolates

• Sure Copy

• Bomback & Co.

• Blinds and Bubbles Boutique

• Living Room Pharmacy

• Margot Rutherford Notary

• Mackenzie Gartside

• Pilon Tools

2020 Comox Bike Co YANA Ride Supporters Achieve Unbelievable Results

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When you’re feeling unrest and uncertainty, and you’re not sure if anything will ever feel “normal” again…You Are Not Alone

When you choose to find light, to take action, big or small, to make things better, to choose positivity in every way you can …You Are Not Alone

When you hope that you or the ones you love will never need to contact YANA, but deeply feel the strength that comes with knowing that if the call has to be made, support will be provided without fail…You Are Not Alone

When you beam with massive personal and shared pride, that together we raised over $108,000 dollars for local families in need…You Are Not Alone

We’re collectively facing global challenges that separate and isolate us.  Take heart!  You are part of a community of supporters that stands together no matter what and has learned to flex, adjust and overcome. We have all had experiences and feelings these last few months not unlike what many YANA families face every day.  Uncertainty, fear, anxiety, loneliness…. But also strength, hope, love and support. 

Make no mistake, when our community comes together like this in such a huge way, under such troubling circumstances, we are showing our youngest, most treasured people, and everyone who loves them, that we care.  That we show up.  That we will forever promise them  – You Are Not Alone.

Thank you YANA riders, donors, sponsors, volunteers and supporters across the Comox Valley and beyond for jumping on board and achieving success that far surpassed our biggest, boldest dreams! 

2020 Comox Bike Co. YANA Ride supports the charity and local businesses

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Originally published by Comox Valley Record – July 27, 2020

YANA has provided financial help to Melissa Helme and her seven-year-old daughter, Autumn, for a few years. This year, Autumn is giving back, by riding in the Comox Bike Co. YANA Ride. Photo by Andrea Postal.

There’s still time to register a team or sponsor a rider

By Andrea Postal – Special to The Record

With the 2020 Comox Bike Co YANA Ride taking on a whole new look in a socially-distanced fashion, the new format is proving to be a big win for the organization, riders, and business community. 

Registration and pledge dollars are coming in strong for a fundraiser that typically brings in enough funds to cover over half the annual accommodation costs required for Comox Valley families travelling outside of the community for medical care of children and pregnant moms. Riders are excited about the prize incentives being offered this year, which are also a direct give back to the Valley’s local business community hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Autumn Helme and her mother Melissa (pictured) have been YANA clients and avid supporters for a few years now. Autumn and her mother make weekly trips down island for a therapy Autumn requires, and the financial assistance YANA provides has been invaluable. 

“We both love YANA so much,” says mother, Melissa Helme. “Whether it’s a big emergency, or just a day trip out of town for a medical appointment, it all matters, and YANA helps relieve the financial burden of the trip. I also love the win-win-win approach to the YANA Ride this year. Everyone likes a chance to win something, and it’s such a great motivation to get more donations. Local businesses have really suffered in the last few months, and it’s so great to be supporting these businesses, and helping them bounce back and thrive.”

You may have spotted Autumn and Melissa at the finish line at previous year’s YANA rides,  ringing bells and handing out medals or water bottles, but this year looks different. With group gathering restrictions in place, there will be no volunteer crew, rider send-off, or post-ride celebration party in the park for the 600 riders, countless volunteers, and community members that attend this sold-out event each year. This year’s YANA Ride is a flexible and socially distanced event where riders can register by donation and choose the when, where, and what they’ll ride, anytime between August 1st-15th. This new format has allowed for some of the newest riders to join and ride at their pace and comfort, like Autumn who has signed up as a first-time rider this year. 

Autumn, or “Team Razzle Dazzle”, has committed to riding for 7 hours during the two-week window, one hour for each year. She only started riding her bike a few months ago, but can’t wait to use her newfound skill to support an organization that has supported her. She’s also excited about some of the great prizes up for grabs, and is hoping that ice cream from a local shop might be in her prize-winning future. And if ice cream and YANA support wasn’t enough, an anonymous donor has stepped up to match Autumn’s pledges up to $1,000 for YANA. 

Local business partnerships are at the core of these fundraising events, and play an essential role through sponsorship and prize donation. 

“We don’t have the hard costs of a physical event, of course, this year, so we made the choice to direct some of those sponsorship funds right back into the local economy,” said YANA executive director Kelly Barnie. “By using some of our sponsor dollars to purchase gift cards from these businesses, we’re getting behind those that have always found a way to be there for us, and we’re rewarding riders for setting and reaching some pretty awesome fundraising goals at the same time.”  

Whether you’re a road cyclist, a mountain biker, or you enjoy a slow cruise around town, this year’s ride is for you and it isn’t too late to register yourself or a team. To sign up, donate to a rider, or get more info on this years’ event, visit

Ride WHAT you want for 2020 YANA Ride

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Originally published by Comox Valley Record – July 21, 2020

81-year-old grandpa Pradeep training for his YANA ride on team “Not Fast, Just Furious” all the way from the UK

The 2020 Comox Bike Company YANA Ride begins in less than two weeks.

The completely re-imagined event offers something for everyone regardless of age, ability or riding style. Participants can ride what they like for the event. As long as it has wheels and is person-powered, it’s perfect.

From road cyclists, mountain bikers and casual family riders to those who may prefer a more relaxed pace on their stationary bike while enjoying a TV show – this year’s ride is truly inclusive.

YANA (You Are Not Alone) has been helping Comox Valley families for almost 35 years. The charity provides accommodation and funding when a family needs to travel for medical reasons for a child or a pregnant mom. The $80,000 goal the volunteer committee has set for this annual fundraiser would cover over half the accommodation costs provided in a year.

Watch for riders on the roads, trails, tracks and living rooms near you from Aug. 1-15.

For more information or to register visit https://www.yanacomoxvalley.com/yana-event/ride