Simon’s Cycles YANA Ride is a day away and 600 cyclists will be riding in this annual event to raise funds for YANA. Starting and ending in Marina Park, Comox, the ride is a celebration of community support for Comox Valley families.
Russ and Lori Ball of Audio Xcellence DJ Services are in the celebration business. After 23 years in the DJ business they count the Simon’s Cycles YANA Ride as a favourite.
“We wouldn’t want to be anywhere else on this day,” says Russ. “We’re long time YANA supporters and are happy to spend the day adding to the energy of the event.”
The upbeat soundtrack livens up the morning as cyclists leave the park and keeps the fun spirit going, all day.
“It really keeps the atmosphere of the event vibrant,” says YANA Community Relations Coordinator, Ocean Varney.
Volunteering their time is part of what Russ and Lori say is a priority for them, personally and in business.
“We love seeing all the families with their kids and their bikes, we wouldn’t miss it,” states Russ.
Best of all, they take requests!
The Simon’s Cycles YANA Ride registration site will be open until 11:59pm Friday, August 18th OR until such time as 600 cyclists have registered. No registration will be accepted on ride day. Route changes can be accommodated at the check-in area, but pay close attention to the event schedule as different routes leave at different times (below).
Check-in 8:00 – 8:30 am, Ride Briefing 8:40 am, Ride starts 9:00 am
Check-in 9:00 – 9:30 am, Ride Briefing 9:40 am, Ride starts 10:00 am
Check-in 10:00 – 10:30 am, Ride Briefing 10:40 am, Ride starts 11:00 am
Check-in 10:30 – 11:00 am, Ride Briefing 11:10 am, Ride starts 11:30 am
Starts 12:00 pm
Live Music: Jilli Martini
12:45 – 1:30 pm
Run Bike Event (4 and under)
Check-in and decorating ride bibs 1:00 – 1:20 pm, Ride Briefing 1:20 pm, Ride starts 1:30 pm
From 12:30 pm, Air Canada Foundation Fundraising Prize & Simon’s Cycles Grand Prize at 1:45 pm
Live Music: Jilli Martini
2:10 – 2:40 pm
By Spencer Anderson
It’s a community event that a little girl with a new tricycle would have loved to be a part of.
Instead, the family of Natasha Vipond will ride in the Simon’s Cycles YANA Ride fundraiser on August 20 in her memory.
Natasha died of Heart Failure and Pulmonary Hypertension in hospital on July 16, 2015 following a heart transplant. She was 18 months old and left behind parents Vanessa and Les, and her older brother Ben, now age eight.
Natasha’s death followed over a year of exhausting hospital stays, medical appointments and travel out of town for the family.
That’s when YANA stepped in. The Comox Valley-based non-profit has, since 1986, offered financial assistance and accommodation to families whose children require out-of-town medical care. YANA also keeps four apartments close to BC Children’s Hospital for families like the Viponds.
“If it wasn’t for them, it would have been even more stressful,” Vanessa Vipond says.
Natasha was born in January 2014 following a normal, uncomplicated pregnancy. By all signs, she was a healthy baby girl.
But by the time she was four months old, she wasn’t gaining weight properly. A follow-up appointment with a pediatrician led to the discovery that she had an irregular heartbeat.
The family was sent to Victoria for testing, expecting an echocardiogram would resolve any concerns. Instead, the cardiologist invited Natasha’s parents into his office and said: “We need to talk.”
It turned out that Natasha had a condition called Left Ventricular Non-Compaction Cardiomyopathy, a congenital heart defect that prevents the heart from pumping efficiently. She would need a transplant to survive.
The family had expected to leave Victoria and go home the next morning. They ended up staying for a month.
“I remember sitting in that waiting room seeing all of the sick kids and their worried families, thinking: ‘It must be so hard to have a child who is sick having to go through terrible procedures,’” Vanessa recalled in a story she wrote on the experience. “Then, suddenly we became a family with a sick child.”
Natasha did get the heart transplant she needed and began a slow but steady recovery, despite going through a stroke and seizures. But one day, during physiotherapy, she went into cardiac arrest. Hospital staff did what they could, but after 45 minutes she died.
The Viponds are donating the tricycle they bought for Natasha during a trip back home from BC Children’s Hospital, shortly before she received the heart transplant. The toddler only got to use it once, but it is a powerful reminder of a time in her short life when she was happy and well enough to ride it.
Vanessa said it is “tough” to let go of the tricycle, but added: “I wanted it to be used for something and I’m glad that YANA is going to take it.”
Les and Ben took part in the Simon’s Cycles YANA Ride the year Natasha passed away. This year, Vanessa will be joining them as a thank-you to the organization that helped them along the journey. She said it’s a service that prevented a huge financial toll on her family; something not every family can count on.
“We even met families from other cities who had to sell belongings so they could afford to be with their children,” she said. Others had to give up their jobs to spend time with their child.
The ride is also a chance to share the story of their daughter, whom they nicknamed ‘Tashy Smashy’ – an unstoppable force of silliness and laughter who would not let medications and medical equipment prevent her from reaching for and throwing her favourite toys or laughing with nurses after finishing a medical test.
“Nothing got her down,” Vanessa said.
“What it really comes down to is when you lose a child, the hardest thing is for them to be forgotten,” she said. “You want their journey to matter.”
“Natasha would be 3 1/2 this summer, so she absolutely would have been on her tricycle in Marina Park with us.”
Her message to other families who are experiencing the same thing: reach out and don’t give up.
“I would really just say to them, be open to help. You have to keep going. You have to keep positive.”
The Viponds will ride under the name ‘Team Natasha Rose’ in loving memory of their little girl.
To ride in the Simon’s Cycles YANA Ride, or make a pledge in Viponds’ name, visit raceroster.com/events/2017/11701/simons-cycles-yana-ride.
The Simon’s Cycles YANA Ride returns to the Comox Valley on Sunday August 20.
The bike ride is a fundraiser for YANA and provides a fun, challenging and unique ride through the beautiful Comox Valley. There are routes for cyclists of all ages and ability, choose from a 6km, 25km, 50km or 100km ride.
“We are stepping it up this year and doing the 25km ride,” shares Adam Duncan “in the past, we’ve done the 6km ride, which was easy and laid back for our family. Our kids are getting older and wanted to do the longer ride. We also have friends that are riding the 25km, so we’ll all just ride together.”
All participants will receive a congratulatory medal, discounts at Simon’s Cycles and enjoy a post-ride lunch with music from Jilli Martini. Thanks to the generous support of lead sponsor Dr. Andreas Conradi, cyclists registered before July 21st will receive a free Simon’s Cycles YANA Ride t-shirt.
Duncan says, “The ride is a lot of fun for our kids. They get a race number and their own t-shirt, which they really like. The lunch is great and the atmosphere at the park, pre-and post-ride, is always fun. We ride because YANA is a great organization that helps families during their most vulnerable moments. Without YANA, the Comox Valley wouldn’t be the place it is to live.”
This year Air Canada is encouraging participants to fundraise in a big way. For every $100 raised in pledges riders are entered to win two return tickets for travel to any Air Canada scheduled destination in North America, a prize valued at $2,800.
Over 150 volunteers and a peleton of sponsors provide their support to cover event expenses, which ensures that all money raised goes directly to local families.
Of course none of it would be possible without Simon’s Cycles. Co-owner Patti Fletcher shares her motivation, “All of us at Simon’s think it’s wonderful that by encouraging people to ride their bikes we are able to support Comox Valley families when they need it the most. This ride raises thousands of dollars for YANA each year, money that goes directly to local families, what could be better than that?”
YANA is a registered charity available to Comox Valley families who need to travel for the medical care of a child under 19 or a pregnant mother. YANA offers accommodation and provides funding to help with expenses while families are away from home.
Sandra Williams founded YANA in 1986 after suffering the emotional and financial devastation which resulted from her daughter’s diagnosis of congenital heart failure and lengthy medical treatment in Vancouver. Williams and her family committed to building an organization that ensured Comox Valley families would have the support of their community during such stressful circumstances. YANA is proud to be the steward of Williams’ legacy and assists with over 400 medical trips each year, supporting hundreds of children and families.
“The Simon’s Cycles YANA Ride is all about the love of riding, the love of community and bringing that together. If you want to have fun and also do something active and good for your community join us on August 20,” explains YANA’s Executive Director, Marcie Dumais.
For more information or to register for the Simon’s Cycles YANA Ride, visit yanacomoxvalley.com.
There are so many reasons to register early:
- Complimentary souvenir t-shirt courtesy of top sponsor, Dr. Andreas Conradi. Register before July 21.
- Invitation to participate in fun pre-event activities including a bike mechanics workshop on June 22, bike security registration session on June 24 and a training ride on July 15.
- Early registration ensures you have the opportunity to participate. The ride registration site will be open until August 18 or until such time as 600 cyclists have registered. No registration will be accepted on ride day.
- Time to fundraise so that you can be entered into the draw to win two return tickets for travel to any Air Canada scheduled destination in North America including Hawaii, Mexico, the Caribbean and select sun destinations, a prized valued at $2,800. For each $100 raised, riders are entered to win!
- The satisfaction of ticking it off your to-do list! Good for your health, good for the community!
For more information about all of these opportunities or to register, click here.
Spring is here, it’s time to dust off your bike and get back on it! Register early and receive a free souvenir shirt courtesy of Simon’s Cycles YANA Ride sponsor, Dr. Conradi. Join us!
On August 7, 2008, Arlene Juby received a phone call from her daughter asking her to come immediately to the hospital in Victoria. Her daughter and her granddaughter were travelling back from a trip to the mainland, via Victoria, and though Arlene did not know why she was needed so urgently, she sensed the seriousness of the situation instantly.
That same evening Arlene’s granddaughter, Ruby, was air-lifted to Children’s Hospital in Vancouver with a diagnosis of leukemia.
“She was six years, two months, and two weeks old,” Arlene recalls, remembering feeling numb. That night she wrote in a journal, something she hadn’t done before. “This is something that happens to other people, not us,” she composed, “but it has happened.”
There would be many more nights for Ruby, for Arlene, and for their family. Almost a year at Children’s Hospital and a stem cell transplant would follow.
“YANA played a significant role during that time,” says Arlene. “The YANA apartment on Oak Street had everything that was needed and the financial part was a big help. YANA kept our family together.”
After returning to the Comox Valley, Ruby continued with regular check-ups at Children’s Hospital, first every two weeks and then every few months. In November 2012, after a routine blood test, Ruby was re-admitted to Children’s, the leukemia had returned.
“She was ten years, five months, and twenty-nine days old,” says Arlene. “And we were back at square one,” explains Arlene. “Again, YANA was there. I don’t think there is anything like YANA anywhere else, it seemed sent from heaven that it was available to us, it meant everything.”
Shortly after Ruby finished her second phase of long-term treatment, Arlene made a significant donation to YANA. “I had decided that when I could help, I would. YANA was at the top of my list.”
Since then Arlene has been a monthly donor, supporting YANA through Canada Helps, an on-line giving platform for non-profits.
“Arlene’s story reminds us of the close connection many of our donors have to the children and families we support,” says YANA Executive Director, Marcie Dumais. “We are grateful to be part of this circle of giving that ensures we are able to help when it’s needed.”
Arlene shares with relief that her granddaughter is a healthy teenager. “I can’t adequately express what YANA means to me, even after so much time has passed. It will be with me until the day I’m gone.”
To donate click here.
~ Originally published April 27, 2017 in the Comox Valley Record
From the outside, it’s just a white, sealed envelope with YANA’s address stamped on the top left.
If you have ever received one from St. Joseph’s staff or given one to a patient, you know that inside these envelopes offer support when it is most needed and represent something very unique and special about the Comox Valley.
“The relief that parents feel when I hand over a YANA emergency funding envelope is palpable,” explains Kelly Phillips, Clinical Coordinator of the Maternal Child Unit at St. Joseph’s Hospital. “The enclosed cash and letter provide reassurance for parents in time of incredible stress and uncertainty.”
YANA’s emergency funding is offered to Comox Valley families when a child or pregnant mother needs to be transferred directly from St. Joseph’s Hospital to a medical facility outside the region. The program is administered by frontline hospital staff. More often than not, emergency transfers are unexpected and cause a great deal of fear and anxiety for families concerned for their loved ones.
“Parents are scared, being able to offer them something to show them that they are not alone means a lot,” says Phillips.
Marcie Dumais, Executive Director at YANA, remembers a mother telling her that she climbed into the helicopter wearing a robe and slippers, completely shocked about what was ahead but determined to stay right at her child’s side.
“It is important that we offer some cash as a small cushion to get families through the immediate situation and that we encourage them to connect with us for further funding and accommodation,” says Dumais. “Many of these emergencies result in long periods of time away from home so the invitation to connect ensures families have the support they need.”
Last year, YANA assisted with 46 emergency transfers involving children. The YANA Board of Directors recently doubled the cash gift, a decision that was possible because of tremendous community support.
“The Comox Valley cares about its people. Our emergency funding program is an excellent example of our compassion for one another. We feel privileged to connect families with their loving community,” says Dumais.
To donate click here.
~ Originally published April 20, 2017 in the Comox Valley Record
A special part of YANA’s service to local families is the apartments. Located on Oak Street within walking distance of Children’s Hospital, these four one-bedroom units are a home away from home for Comox Valley families. The apartments offer a place for families to be together, a place to retreat, prepare meals and to heal.
The apartments have a special volunteer named Jayne, also known as “the apartment angel.” A long-time Vancouver resident and recent retiree, Jayne recalls receiving a call from her daughter who lives in the Comox Valley.
“My daughter asked if I would be interested in volunteering with an organization that assisted families who needed to be in Vancouver for the medical care of a child,” remembers Jayne. “After meeting YANA representatives and seeing the apartments I knew it was something I wanted to do.”
Families who arrive in Vancouver by emergency transfer will often meet Jayne when she brings them the keys to the apartment. She helps with all things apartments; checking them between clients, making sure they are clean, ensuring linens are folded and easy to find, taking inventory, restocking necessities, and giving them lots of love.
“The families that use the apartments are under stress and I want to make everything as easy as possible for them,” says Jayne. “I want the apartments to be a welcoming place and to feel like a home.”
Complications around her twin pregnancy forced Kate Ashton and her family to Vancouver three months before her due date. Having only recently relocated to the Comox Valley, without nearby family support, and faced with a very serious condition was incredibly overwhelming, still Ashton says that, “remaining optimistic felt like the only choice.” “The YANA apartment offered my husband and I and our 21-month-old son a normal life while waiting for the birth of our girls,” recalls Ashton.
The twins, Lucy and Abilgail, were born small but healthy much to the relief of their family. The Ashtons continued at the apartments, waiting for the girls to be strong enough to leave the hospital. Abigail’s first night ‘home’ was spent at the YANA apartment. A few days later Lucy was released and the Ashtons were able to return to the Comox Valley.
“Regardless of how long they are here or for what reason,” says Jayne, “the families that stay in the apartments have the common experience of needing to care for a sick child. I feel blessed to be able to help in easing some of that stress.”
To donate click here.
~ Originally published on April 13, 2017 in the Comox Valley Record
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.
To donate click here.
~ Originally published April 6, 2017 in the Comox Valley Record