Second annual fundraiser for YANA a resounding success
From left, Comox Valley Record publisher Keith Currie, YANA (You Are Not Alone) community relations co-ordinator Ocean Varney, Bill Anglin, representing Valley Vonka title sponsor Courtney & Anglin Realty, YANA executive director Marcie Dumais, and Black Press director of product development Chrissie Bowker, celebrate the $8,079.75 raised in this year’s Valley Vonka. Photo by Terry Farrell
Friday, May 11 was a night of celebration, at a private party hosted by Hot Chocolates, in downtown Courtenay. The occasion? The prize presentations at the second annual Valley Vonka & the Hot Chocolate Factory, presented by The Comox Valley Record and Courtney & Anglin Realty in partnership with Hot Chocolates, Sure Copy, and Isla Designs.
Five lucky participants, who bought specially designed (by Hot Chocolates, of course) Valley Vonka chocolate bars found “Golden Tickets” inside the wrapping. Those tickets qualified the winner for one of five fantastic prizes.
The promotion was all in the name of one of the Comox Valley’s most recognized charities: You Are Not Alone (YANA) – a community organization that offers financial and accommodation assistance to Comox Valley families who need to travel to access medical treatment for their children.
The prizes included a family pack of gold season tickets (two adult, two children) courtesy Mount Washington Alpine Resort, as well as getaway packages from Crown Isle Resort & Golf Community, Old House Hotel & Spa, Kingfisher Oceanside Resort and Spa, and Ucluelet’s Black Rock Oceanfront Resort.
In addition to the Golden Ticket prizes, there was also a children’s colouring contest that ran concurrently. More than 200 entries were received and judges had a most difficult time selecting two winners, who each received a year’s supply of chocolate, from Hot Chocolates.
The biggest winner of the promotion was YANA, as representatives from the charity were presented with a cheque in the amount of $8,079.75.
Thanks to everyone who participated by either buying a Valley Vonka chocolate bar, or by entering the colouring contest.
Hot Chocolates owner Jorden Marshall and manager Michele Henry present the Valley Vonka colouring contest winners Grace Stegall and Louis MacDonald-Ward with their prizes: a year’s supply of chocolate from Hot Chocolates! Grace, 10, won the 6-12-year-old category, while Louis, 4, won the five-years-and-under age category. Photo by Terry Farrell.
Local mom, Samantha Ferguson, understands well the intensity of diagnosis and treatment of childhood leukemia. In 2016, at the age of seven, her son Kai was diagnosed. Two and a half years later in the fifth stage of treatment, Kai still takes oral chemotherapy daily, special antibiotics on weekends, monthly visits out-of-town for intravenous chemotherapy and quarterly trips to BC Children’s Hospital for painful chemotherapy injections.
Kai’s medical journey has been a long one and is not over. YANA has been with his family from the beginning.
“From the moment we left by helicopter from Comox to Children’s and I was handed a YANA envelope,” explains Ferguson, “We barely understood what was happening and just how much support we would need from our community.”
Lifetime Union Bay resident Joanne Tarnowski knew she was very ill when she came into the YANA office in 2016, around the time of Kai’s diagnosis, to discuss ways she could contribute. While Joanne wasn’t aware of Kai’s family sharing such a similar path to her own, she knew the challenges of being away from home with a sick child and wanted to do something significant for her community.
“My husband and I lived in Union Bay all our lives,” explained Joanne. “We married in 1958, in 1965 we bought an oyster business and started working it together.” Joanne described those early years as a lot of hard work but nothing compared to the challenge that came when her daughter got sick at two years of age.
“When Janet got sick everything happened so quickly. We went from hospital emergency here, to Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.”
Janet’s illness would culminate in a long hospital stay and an operation.
“At that time we didn’t have much money or help,” states Joanne. “There was no YANA then. It was a scary time and a lonely time.”
Janet recovered and eventually thrived and started her own family. In 1995, Janet and her husband, Bruce, welcomed their son, Dallas. When Dallas was six he was diagnosed with leukemia.
“We were floored,” Janet remembers. “The helplessness, the anxiety, it’s like time stopped. In that moment I understood what my own mother had gone through.”
Janet and Bruce began the heart wrenching journey of caring for their child through his intense treatment, experiencing much of the same stress that Kai’s parents face.
“In the beginning we made a promise; we would tell Dallas every day how much he was loved; he would never be left alone,” says Janet. They juggled work, care of their youngest son, and took shifts at the hospital. “We kept our promise,” says Janet.
In 2004, Dallas finished treatment and is now a healthy young man who understands the importance of giving.
“Looking back, I don’t remember the fear or the sadness. I remember my family, being together, feeling loved and secure,” says Dallas. “We were lucky to have that, our family wants that for others.”
Donor Joanne Tarnowski born October 14, 1939 passed away March 2, 2018. Joanne and her family created an annual legacy gift to YANA with the commitment of keeping Comox Valley families, like Kai’s, together during medical treatment away from home.
Reflecting on her past, Joanne said, “You are not alone. Those words mean a lot to me. I love YANA. I always have.”
To find out more about supporting YANA through monthly, annual, or legacy gifts visit https://www.yanacomoxvalley.com/donate/
Experiencing premature labour at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Susanne Bazett, remembers the first tears she cried. “It was when they handed me an envelope from YANA. It became so real, our baby was coming early and we would need to transfer to Nanaimo. It was overwhelming.”
YANA envelopes containing emergency cash and an invitation for further support are given to local families with a child or an expecting mother who requires emergency transfer from the Comox Valley hospital. “It is one of the ways we connect with families who need to travel for medical care.” Says YANA Executive Director, Marcie Dumais.
“That was just the start of many tears,” recalls Susanne who delivered baby Eliza just an hour after arriving in Nanaimo. Complications with the premature birth resulted in yet another transfer, this time to Victoria. The next few weeks were filled with specialists, tests, and a third hospital transfer with YANA providing accommodation wherever Eliza’s family needed to be.
Through the stress and uncertainty Susanne says one thing still stands out, “Our faith in humanity was realized. The generosity, the kindness, the compassion of strangers when we needed it most. YANA connected with us immediately and whatever happened next, they were there to help.”
Several years prior, Paula Bazett, Eliza’s aunt, became a volunteer for YANA. She helps regularly at fundraising events.
“I had been aware of YANA for many years,” says Paula. “In fact they had helped with a similar situation in my family in the past. And then again with Baby E. I was inspired by this amazing support that was offered so unconditionally.”
Dumais has this to say about volunteers, “However they come to be inspired to help YANA, our volunteers become an inspiration to us. We can’t tell you how heart-warming it is when we look around at an event and see so many people giving their time and effort to make sure YANA can sustain its support to families.”
Paula adds, “So many people I admire are involved in giving to YANA in some way. It’s great to be surrounded with like-minded people and I hope to find more ways to be involved in the future.”
“There is never an obligation for relatives or clients themselves to contribute but it consistently happens, people are compelled to participate in the circle of giving and we are grateful to be the stewards of this beautiful generosity. It is really needed particularly as our services grow,” finishes Dumais.
Baby E, as she is affectionately known, is happy and healthy and thriving at home in Courtenay. To find out more about volunteering with YANA, visit https://www.yanacomoxvalley.com/volunteer/
June 9, 2017
Natasha Ardron, experiencing premature labour, is air lifted from Comox and transferred to BC Children’s Hospital. YANA connects with the family and an apartment and support is put in place.
June 14, 2017
Natasha and Paul Ardron deliver twins, Maverick and Matthias, micro-preemies at 24 weeks, each weighing under 2 lbs.
June 18, 2017, 4 days old.
Natasha and Paul announce the birth of their boys on Facebook. Remembering those first days, Natasha says, “People immediately began to reach out to us with offers of help.” After some discussion the couple made a decision to ask that help be directed toward YANA. “Luckily we live in a community that has something in place for families, through YANA we had what we needed.”
June 20, 2017, 6 days old.
Natasha posts on Facebook asking friends and family to support YANA Comox Valley. She suggests they attend an upcoming fundraiser hosted by Salish Seafoods and donate in the twins’ name. “Through everything they were experiencing it was deeply touching to have them advocate on our behalf,” says YANA Executive Director, Marcie Dumais.
June 27, 2017, 15 days old.
Matthias Rikley Ardron, no longer able to fight against the odds, passes shortly before 9pm.
August 20, 2017, 67 days old.
Team M&M (Team Matthias and Maverick), Grandma Verna, Grandpa Gary, and friends ride in the Simon’s Cycles YANA Ride at Marina Park in Comox, raising $3,025 for Comox Valley families travelling for the medical care of a child or a pregnant mother. Team M&M inspires other cyclists and even more fundraising with the event raising $61,000. Grandma Ellie volunteers for the day. Paul visits the park in support. Dumais notes, “Being at Marina Park that day with Team M&M and other YANA families who were riding and volunteering really illustrates the circle of giving that exists around YANA.”
September 26, 2017, 104 days old.
Maverick breathes for one hour without his CPAP mask that helps inflate his lungs and deliver oxygen.
December 25, 2017, 194 days old.
Paul and Natasha celebrate Maverick’s first Christmas with nurses and staff at BC Children’s and the YANA apartments are a holiday refuge.
January 15, 2018, 215 days old.
Maverick says good-bye to his BC Children’s family and is on his way home.
February 23, 2018, 254 days old.
Paul and Natasha Ardron and family attend the YANA Big Love Benefit along with colleagues from Investors Group who help YANA by sponsoring the event. A photographic presentation of Maverick’s story is presented during the evening (https://www.yanacomoxvalley.com/stories/maverick/). $122,000 is raised for YANA.
Natasha reflects on the role of YANA in the community, “Everyone’s support of YANA came back full force to us, as well as to other Comox Valley families.”
Settling in to their ‘new normal’ at home in the Comox Valley, the Ardron family still faces some challenges, including Maverick’s chronic lung condition. They also consistently celebrate many firsts including their son’s first trail walk, first swim, first spaghetti, and the first day of spring.
To find out more about YANA events and how to get involved, visit https://www.yanacomoxvalley.com/events/
Valley Vonka is not only bringing some big excitement to town this spring but it is raising funds for You Are Not Alone (YANA).
“A significant portion of our donations come from community fundraisers,” say YANA Executive Director Marcie Dumais. “These are businesses, groups, or individuals who independently organize some kind of fundraiser with YANA as the beneficiary.”
Jordan Marshall of Hot Chocolates was happy to get involved as a title sponsor. “When we started Hot Chocolates thirty-two years ago, we decided we wanted to support things that lifted children up. YANA is all about kids, it’s local, and Valley Vonka involves chocolate. For us it’s a perfect fit.”
“Community fundraising is all about finding that fit,” says Dumais. “For some it’s a charity BBQ, for others a raffle, we recently had a young man recite over a thousand digits of Pi from memory for pledges to YANA.”
The common denominator in community fundraising is the desire to support local families who need to travel for the medical care of a child under 19 or a pregnant mother.
“We are truly grateful for all the unique ways our community finds to support us,” continues Dumais. “These fundraisers play a huge role in our ability to deliver services to families.”
One of these families is the Wallace family. Claire Wallace was born with an arm and hand that didn’t move and despite the hopes of doctors and her parents the condition did not improve with time.
“We travelled to BC Children’s Hospital so many times in the first few years,” says Claire’s mom. “Luckily through friends we found out about YANA.”
By the time Claire was six it was determined that a major surgery was needed and YANA was able to assist the family during their stay in Vancouver and has been able to support their subsequent follow-up visits.
Coincidentally, Claire’s grandmother has worked alongside Marshall for the past twelve years at Hot Chocolates.
“We are such an interconnected community,” says Dumais. “Those connections can inspire some very special generosity and allow us to be there for children like Claire as long as we are needed.”
To find more information on hosting your own YANA fundraiser visit https://www.yanacomoxvalley.com/fundraise/
Any day is better with a little pie.
Jack Boan would agree but in his case it’s ‘a lot’ of ‘pi.’
Pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to diameter, an irrational number that never ends. ‘Pi Day’ is celebrated each year on March 14 or 3.14, the first digits of pi.
Since first grade Boan has been memorizing the digits of pi and reciting them on Pi Day. Several years ago he started using the occasion to fundraise for YANA (You Are Not Alone).
The 13-year-old Grade 8 Mark Isfeld student will be at it again next Wednesday, all in the name of YANA.
“Jack is an example of somebody taking something they love to do and using it to benefit the community,” said YANA Community Relations Co-ordinator, Ocean Varney. “He was inspired to help because he knows families that YANA has helped. In turn he is inspiring others; it’s pretty awesome!”
YANA offers funding and accommodation to Comox Valley families who need to leave the community for the medical care of a child under 19 or pregnant mother.
Last year Boan memorized 808 digits of Pi and raised more than $1,000 for YANA.
He’s hoping to improve on both counts this year.
To pledge Boan you can donate to YANA directly at https://www.yanacomoxvalley.com/donate/ (mention Pi Day in the notes) or through the YANA office.
Nationally ranked with his official count of 808, Boan is the sixth-ranked Canadian on the Pi World Ranking List.
The top Canadian is Chun Wang, who recited 8,148 digits of pi on Pi Day last year.
The world record holder is Suresh Kumar Sharma of India, who recited 70,030 digits of pi on Oct. 21, 2015. It took him 17 hours and 14 minutes to complete his recital.
Boan is ranked 166th worldwide.
Jilli, Katrina and Farley play for YANA at the Mex Pub, March 6
The next 1st Tuesday Fundraiser, sponsored by the Mex Pub, will take place March 6 with featured guests the Jilli Martini Trio. Proceeds from the admission donation will benefit YANA, You Are Not Alone.
YANA Comox Valley provides funding and accommodation to families with children under 19, or to pregnant mothers who need to leave the Comox Valley for medical care. Last year, YANA helped with almost 400 medical trips and 53 emergency transfers. YANA helps ease financial and logistical challenges that families face in being away from home so that they can concentrate on the care of their child.
“1st Tuesday Fundraisers at the Mex are such a unique way to fundraise. We are thrilled that Jilli Martini is playing,” said YANA Community Relations Co-ordinator, Ocean Varney. “Jilli is a great YANA supporter and we’re looking forward to a really fun night. We hope the community will come down and check it out.”
The Jilli Martini trio consists of Jilli Martini, and a mother and son dynamic, Katrina and Farley Mifsud.
Martini is a well-known Comox Valley singer/performer. Jill and her various groups can deliver a solid dance-party band, guaranteed to rock your event, but can also be the laid back acoustic show of favourite tunes, up close and personal. Either way, you will be swept away with the ‘feel good’ energy as they entertain you.
Lead vocalist, Martini, can belt out a rock tune or sweetly serenade a gentle ballad. She has a wide vocal range – from clear and pure to deep, gritty and raspy.
Katrina, a self-taught musician born in England, would set out to busk in the streets of Leeds as a young teenager. Her musical endeavours were cut short and put on the back shelf to raise a family. After many years, Katrina has recently picked up her guitar and is playing once again, now alongside her talented son, Farley.
A gifted young player, Farley’s powerful connection with music is unmistakable when he plays his guitar. Music isn’t just something he does, but who he is.
The three share a deep passion for music. Their tastes and tones align naturally. Their selections of covers vary dramatically and many are on the more obscure side, but still pleasantly familiar to listeners. Their song list consists of classic rock (Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Metallica, Radiohead, Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty) to country and folk (Dolly Parton, Carole King, James Taylor, Simon & Garfunkel, Johnny Cash) and modern day (Evanescence, Bruno Mars, Maroon 5, Katy Perry). Their ability to rock out with their chill vibe and casual style makes them a crowd favourite in any setting.
The Comox Valley Food Bank, a regular at the event, will be there to accept food donations for families in need.
The evening will start at 7:30 with a few tunes by hosts Lainie Laughlin, Corey Francis and guest host Perry Johnson.
Thank you to everyone who participated in our online auction! Bidding closed February 20. You will have received an email if you were a winning bidder. Purchased items can be picked up on or after February 27th at the YANA office. Office hours are Tuesday and Thursday 10am – 2pm. #102-2456 Rosewall Crescent, Courtenay (250) 871-0343.
Running until Feb. 20 at 9 p.m., YANA presents their first Big Love On-Line Auction with all proceeds benefitting YANA Comox Valley.
For over three decades, YANA has been hosting an annual dinner and auction to raise funds for local families who need to travel outside the community for the medical care of a child under 19 or a pregnant mother.
“The Big Love Benefit Dinner and Auction is our biggest annual fundraiser,” says YANA president Kelly Rusk.
“It remains a wonderful evening filled with generosity from our sponsors, donors and guests. However, we have always been aware that we are limited by the size of the venue and nature of the event.”
Over the past years, YANA has seen growing need in the Comox Valley related to medical travel which has resulted in significantly higher program costs. This has required the local charity to think creatively and to expand its fundraising.
“Bringing a piece of our biggest fundraiser online and opening it up to the wider community is something we’ve always wanted to do,” said Marcie Dumais, YANA executive director. “The business community and individual donors contribute greatly to auction, and we want to maximize their donations to our cause and increase the benefit their gifts bring to families.”
“Now everybody can find cool stuff, see the community’s generosity, and be part of the Big Love,” adds Dumais.
“We hope everyone will check it out,” said Rusk. “Remember to bid high and bid often for Comox Valley families.”