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Ride Where You Like!

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Ride When You Like!

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Originally published by the Comox Valley Record – June 30, 2021

Got the itch to travel and a jam-packed summer?

No problem!

The 2021 Comox Bike Co YANA Ride is a fully flexible event where participants can gather pledges and get on their bikes anytime between Aug. 1-15. Over 100 riders are already registered and gathering donations for this year’s event!

Registration is available by any donation, big or small. For more information and to sign up for this year’s event, visit



Celebrating 35 Years of YANA – Decades of Families, One Story

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Behind every YANA family there is a story. Behind every health challenge, every trip and appointment, there is a community rallying together to hold that family up. Each journey is different, but the feeling remains the same; no matter what, you are not alone.

April 1st marks YANA’s 35th Anniversary of serving Comox Valley Families. Through the years, through massive world changes and challenges, YANA was, is, and will always be an anchor of support and a reflection of the heart of this community, standing together to help families for decades to come.

A YANA Family Story – Kelly, Allan, & Cora

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In celebration of YANA’s 35th Anniversary we will be sharing a glimpse into the lives and stories of YANA families from across the decades, like Kelly and Allan, who encountered YANA’s support when they needed it most.

In June of 2020, Kelly Brown became critically ill and delivered her daughter Cora over 3 months early at Victoria General Hospital. During the family’s long stay away from home, YANA became the loving arms of a community that was there for them the whole way through.

“To know that we belong in the Comox Valley and have that big sense of togetherness, it’s just incredible. Sometimes you don’t feel the community is there to support you, and then you have a big fall-back, and it’s definitely there.” – Kelly Brown

Siblings both members of the YANA family

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Originally published by the Comox Valley Record – April 19, 2021

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

When Karilyn Geiger was born in November of 1990, three and a half months early, she wasn’t much bigger than a banana. Weighing in at just 925 grams (approximately two pounds) she was a tiny fighter who eventually overcame the obstacles of her premature birth.

Brian and Sandy Geiger and their two-year-old daughter, Sabrina, were in for an emotional ride when Karilyn’s early arrival required them to leave the Valley for the mainland.

“We were dairy farmers in Black Creek” Sandy explains. “It wasn’t easy picking up and leaving, and we had this little one at home.”

Sandy’s labour couldn’t be stopped; baby Karilyn was determined to come early. Sandy was sent by air ambulance to Vancouver where she delivered her premature baby. She spent the next two months in the BC Children’s Hospital NICU before being transferred to Victoria General Hospital, and then back to St. Joseph’s in Comox.

Unsure where to turn, Sandy reached out to a friend back home, Carol, who was involved with YANA, an organization that was still quite new to the Comox Valley. She was able to connect Sandra and Brian with food vouchers and a place to stay, all provided by the organization.

“To us, it was just like a godsend,” said Sandy. “It was just amazing, I didn’t know what to do, we didn’t know what to do.”

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

It was not only YANA’s support program that helped the family but Carol’s personal support that gave them hope and light through a dark and difficult time.

“Our family didn’t want to talk,” said Sandy. “We’d previously had a baby at 24 weeks and lost her. Having one at 26 weeks, they were scared to be positive about it. Having somebody there that would help walk us through it was something you don’t expect to have to deal with. She gave that hope that she was going to be okay.”

Karilyn was OK; after a long journey and 14 weeks spent in hospital, she returned home to parents and sister Sabrina, defying the odds for an infant born so early. But the family wasn’t finished with YANA yet. In 2001 their daughter Sabrina was diagnosed with a type of skin cancer that required treatment and surgery. The family found themselves back in Vancouver, reaching out to YANA once again.

Oak Manor apartments, YANA’s downtown accommodations that many YANA families staying in Vancouver still use today, became the Geiger’s home away from home.

“We were able to have the whole family together,” said Sandy. “When Brian wasn’t able to come over I could still go over with the girls. I think it made the process a lot better.”

The family has continued to stay connected with YANA and they’re huge supporters of the organization. Brian and Sandy describe Karilyn, their now-grown-up daughter, as tiny but tough, and a big supporter of YANA as well. She works and lives in Smithers, B.C. with her husband, and her parents tell us they’re both doing really well.

“It definitely took a village for everyone to get us through this, and it worked.”


There are 2,500 Valley Vonka chocolate bars available throughout the Comox Valley, with Golden Tickets randomly inserted into five of the chocolate bars.

Each golden ticket will be eligible to win one of the following grand prizes:

• Mount Washington Alpine Resort family passes

• The Old House Hotel and Spa gift certificates

• Kingfisher Oceanside Resort, Spa and Restaurant gift certificates

• Canadian Tire $1,000 shopping spree

• Peninsula Co-op $1,000 gas card.

Total value of all prizes is $7,500.

The bars are available for purchase by donation (suggested $5 donation) at:

YANA founder helps family in need: a historical account

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Originally published by the Comox Valley Record – April 14, 2021

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

The first few months of Angela Furlotte’s life were anything but easy.

In the fall of 1988 at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Angela was welcomed by big sister Melissa, and parents Heather and Tom, who couldn’t have predicted how challenging the coming months would be with the newest member of their family. It wasn’t long after Angela was born that Heather realized something wasn’t right with her little girl, who presented symptoms that doctors couldn’t identify a cause for, causing obvious pain and distress.

“I’m not exaggerating when I tell you, she cried constantly,” Heather recalls, choking up at the memory of the heartbreak and helplessness she’d felt for her baby. “Life was hell, as you can imagine.”

After many months and many doctors, a local physician identified the cause of Angela’s extreme discomfort. The diagnosis required the family to travel to Vancouver to BC Children’s Hospital, where Angela would undergo surgery at just a few months old.

Angela Furlotte had serious health issues as a baby. YANA (You Are Not Alone) helped the family with its medical expenses.

The young couple arrived with Angela and two-year-old Melissa in tow, scared and alone, with the added worry about how they would afford the trip and where they would stay. A close family friend and Angela’s godmother, Jeanette, contacted the Legion in Comox about their situation. The legion in turn contacted Sandra Williams, founder of YANA, who happened to be at BC Children’s Hospital that same day Tom and Heather arrived.

Heather recalls how it all miraculously unfolded.

“Sandra and Roberta were over at (BC Children’s) for a cardiac appointment that day. Jeanette got ahold of us and said, ‘there’s going to be a lady to meet you in the lobby…can you meet with her?’ We said ‘sure’.

“This lady came up to us, she sat down, she took my hand and she said, ‘Hi Heather, hi Tom, hi Angela and Melissa. I’m Sandra and I’m from the Comox Valley, I’m here to help you.’ We just cried.”

In those days YANA was just a small society made up of community members and volunteers who worked tirelessly to raise money for families just like the Furlottes. YANA was able to provide them with money for food and a place to stay, but most of all, they gave them the gift of support and the care of a community in a time of crisis.

It’s been 32 years since Heather’s family was helped by YANA but the feeling has held through the years. The community support was felt deeply through the hands and heart of Sandra, and Heather speaks with emotion about the memory.

“It was like a human touch, not in your weakest hour, but your hour where you don’t know what’s going to come,” said Heather. “That little angel (Sandra) came and sat down beside us… and assured us that everything would be okay.”

Angela is all grown up and in her 30s now. She enjoys her three dogs while working and living in the Comox Valley along with her parents. Heather tells us she’s doing well.

Heather and Tom have shared with Angela the story of how YANA helped them, and the connection to the organization is one Heather tells us she’ll always hold close to her heart.

“I don’t know what else to say, we’re forever grateful.”


There are 2,500 Valley Vonka chocolate bars available throughout the Comox Valley, with Golden Tickets randomly inserted into five of the chocolate bars.

Each golden ticket will be eligible to win one of the following grand prizes:

• Mount Washington Alpine Resort family passes

• The Old House Hotel and Spa gift certificates

• Kingfisher Oceanside Resort, Spa and Restaurant gift certificates

• Canadian Tire $1,000 shopping spree

• Peninsula Co-op $1,000 gas card.

Total value of all prizes is $7,500.

The bars are available for purchase by donation (suggested $5 donation) at:

Preemie Born to 15-Year-Old Mother, A YANA Family From Decades Past

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Originally published by the Comox Valley Record – April 7, 2021

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

It was spring of 1994, and Megan Lacourse, at just 15 years old, had recently moved out of her parent’s home and was awaiting the arrival of her first son, when she went into labour and found herself at St.Joseph’s hospital months earlier than planned. Days later and still in Comox, her son Andrew was born in a footling breech presentation, weighing in at only 2lbs 7oz.

Andrew required help breathing, and Megan recalls the pediatrician working to keep him ventilated for more than 3 hours while they waited for the transport helicopter to arrive.

“The pediatrician here hand ventilated my son from 8:40 in the morning. They ended up flying him to Victoria, originally it was going to be Vancouver, but he was stronger than they thought he was going to be.”

While Andrew was getting medical attention at the NICU in Victoria, Megan was trying to figure out how she was going to stay and care for her son who was now 4 hours away along the old island highway, in another city. She’d heard about YANA through a friend, but it was a nurse at the hospital that first connected her with YANA’s support.

“The nurses at the nurses’ station gave me an envelope, and it had $50 from YANA and a toothbrush,” Megan explains. It was that $50 that was the start of what would be ongoing help from YANA to ensure she could travel to and stay in Victoria with her son every weekend for the 52 days he remained in the Victoria General Hospital.

“Basically we would leave every Thursday night, and go to Victoria and then come back Sunday night or Monday morning”, says Megan. “In the meantime, our vehicle broke down, so YANA supported us by paying for our hotels, as well as renting us a vehicle”.

YANA’s funding and accommodation programs provide support for about 70-80 pregnant women and infants under 1 each year. These families find themselves relocated for medical care in Nanaimo, Victoria, or Vancouver due to the limitations on Comox Valley Hospital’s ability to provide support for preterm births. Many of these families learn about YANA through the Hospital Emergency Funding Program which puts no-strings-attached funds and information about YANA, into the hands of parents who are sent out of the community from the Comox Valley Hospital, much like the envelope Megan received when her son was born.

This first point of contact, and the care and support that happens after families are set up with YANA, makes a tremendous impact both financially and emotionally for families, and this was no exception for Megan and her son.

Megan shares, “It was amazing for us. I mean, I grew up here, it’s always been a great community. But to have the solid knowing that every week we had somewhere to stay. It made it so that the financial end of it really was not an issue for us at all. Money was certainly not something we had a lot of. I honestly don’t know how we would have managed it.”

After nearly 3 months in Victoria, Andrew was released home back to the Comox Valley, and Megan emphasized how lucky he was to do so well. “He had a really smooth ride for what it could have been, considering how premature he was.”

YANA’s support didn’t end there. After returning home, YANA continued to look out for Megan and her son by providing resources to support her as a new, young mother. “They helped connect me with other services,” she explains, “there were other organizations that brought me a baby bath and bags of clothes and gift certificates, so it was more than the travel back and forth and somewhere to stay, it was connections with other organizations that were able to help us.”

Fast forward almost 3 decades, Andrew is the eldest of 5 siblings and is living and working in the Comox Valley. Beaming with a mother’s pride, Megan shares that he’s doing well. “He’ll be 27 in April, he’s a hairstylist at Chatters. He’s great.”


There are 2,500 Valley Vonka chocolate bars available throughout the Comox Valley, with Golden Tickets randomly inserted into five of the chocolate bars.

Each golden ticket will be eligible to win one of the following grand prizes:

• Mount Washington Alpine Resort family passes

• The Old House Hotel and Spa gift certificates

• Kingfisher Oceanside Resort, Spa and Restaurant gift certificates

• Canadian Tire $1,000 shopping spree

• Peninsula Co-op $1,000 gas card.

Total value of all prizes is $7,500.

The bars are available for purchase by donation (suggested $5 donation) at:

Ultra-marathoner to run northern end of Island for Comox Valley charity

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Terry Farrell/Scott Stanfield – Comox Valley Record April 5, 2021

Merville ultra-marathoner Jan Kotyk is lacing up his runners and hitting the road for YANA.

“I am doing an ambitious fundraiser for YANA that will take place from April 7-9, possibly including April 10th,” he said. “I am planning to run from my house towards North Island from dawn till dusk each day.”

The schedule is to run in three-hour segments, with one-hour intermissions daily.

Kotyk has no target distance, and said he just hoped to cover as much distance as possible, “at a slow and steady pace.”

The fundraiser is his way of repaying YANA for services provided.

YANA (You Are Not Alone) 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.

“This is an organization who has helped us financially to make cardiology appointments to the BC Children’s Hospital for our now seven-year-old son Asher,” said Kotyk.

Asher was diagnosed with pulmonary vein stenosis, but Kotyk said he is stable, and continues to defy the odds. He’s a strong, energetic, creative and “caring kiddo” who enjoys an active lifestyle.

“We visit the Heart Centre at B.C. Children’s Hospital yearly to monitor any changes. We have endless gratitude for YANA. They have, and continue to be, an incredible support system for my little fam and other families close to our hearts in the community. They have helped to relieve some of the financial stresses so that we can just focus on Asher during the out-of-town medical trips, which for us is usually two to three weekdays. These trips are emotional for all of us, so it is incredibly helpful having some relief in this area.”

He said YANA has also helped find resources for other areas of support.

Jan’s brother, Jared, will act as his support team by following in his RV, which will also be used as accommodations.

“My brother Jared… will wait till I am almost done with my segment before driving ahead in his RV to my next rest area. He will be doing this for safety reasons (such as) when there is no cell service. He will have provisions such as food, water, first aid, changes of clothes, etc.”

There are numerous ways to donate to Kotyk’s fundraiser.

All donation methods are detailed on the YANA website’s “DONATE” page (

“Basically as long as ‘Running North for YANA’ or ‘Jan Kotyk’ are mentioned with the donation we will add it to the tally,” said YANA executive director, Kelly Barnie.

YANA also accepts e-transfers at (set up for auto deposit). Again, ‘Running North for YANA’ or ‘Jan Kotyk’ noted in the e-transfer notes will ensure Kotyk’s fundraiser gets credit.

Cheques can also be dropped off or mailed to the YANA office at 102 – 2456 Rosewall Cres., Courtenay, B.C., V9N 8R9. Include the fundraiser name on the cheque memo.

Drop off cheques or cash at the office Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., and note what the funds are for.

“Running North for YANA” – Jan Kotyk

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Click here to donate to Jan’s fundraiser! Don’t forget to mention “Jan Kotyk” in the ‘MESSAGE FOR YANA FUND SOCIETY’ BOX

Check out Jan’s video highlights by clicking here!

Blog entry 13: April 10th

I will not be running any further North. I was icing my creaky Achilles heel last night but woke up to shooting pain and swelling in that area. The rest of my body was ready to go, and the weather was looking good, but in the end it was an easy decision. I feel very fortunate to have run as far as I did, and appreciate all the help I had to get me there. The unofficial total is 203.86 km. I am not aware of the total funds raised as of yet but am grateful for any amount that was made. Thanks for following me on my journey, I will do one more post to wrap it all up in the next day or 2.

Blog entry 12: April 9th

Completed just over 60km today! Light rain for the most part, a small hail shower and even the sun made an apperance. Slower going through some sections, or so it felt but a good day out none the less. I have less than 40km left to go till Port McNeil (my unofficial end zone). I was able to talk to my wife as we had a small window of reception and even got a facetime in with Asher as I climbed a slow hill. It was the boost I needed.
Cleaned up and prepped for my final day tomorrow. A few new minor injuries will hopefully not slow me down.

Blog entry 11: April 9th

Took a slightly longer break in Woss. The lady Working the grocery store gave me a pear and said I should eat something healthy, this was after seeing what I bought for my journey. I explained I ha e only been eating healthy and this was some victory food, but I would eat the pear immediately. The weather got better and I headed back out. This was a tough section, I started to hit a bit of a wall and needed to walk a km or so. Got in the RV and had a solid 20 min nap before eating. Now it’s time to get dressed and get going again.

Blog entry 10:  April 9th, 2021

The snow continued and started coming down a lot harder. Just before the sign to Woss I was running through 1 inch slush. Luckily there wasn’t alot of traffic along that part of the route because I had to get as far over as I safely could to avoid being sprayed. I also got reception at about that point and received a call from my wife. It was so nice to hear her voice and have her cheering me on. It really helped to motivate me through the worst weather. We stopped at Woss to discuss our next move, the snow is still coming down in huge flakes but not sticking so we will probably push on. 33 km done so far.

Blog Entry 9: April 9th, 2021

Woke at 5 feeling good despite a restless night. Left right at 6am on the nose. Had to walk/hobble the first km as my knee was giving me some grief. After the first 6 km I was feeling pretty good. Then it snowed for the next 10ish kms. The snow didn’t bother me but once it turned to rain I found it much colder. Stopped at the turn off for Mt. Cain having done just over 22 km’s.

Blog Entry 8

Finished the day just before 7 pm, and managed 67km. Saw another elk having an evening snack. Jared kept me fueled and motivated me to go a little further when I was getting a bit discouraged. A 20 min nap before my last segment also helped change my outlook and give me a little extra push. So many people honking, waving and cheering made the arduous km’s that much easier.

We found a nice free campsite and are making a meal before checking out the river (maybe a dip before bed)

Blog Entry 7: April 8th, 2021

Another 15 km checked off. My pace is definitely slowing, and my body is feeling less spry since the beginning. One big blister,  pretty tight calf and hamstring muscles and a sore shoulder. The weather has been slightly over cast and a bit of a headwind to run against. Jared has been keeping me well fed, and my spirits up. He has planned perfect rest stops for us along the way.
I will put a few more km’s in before its time to turn in for the day.

Blog Entry 6

This last stretch was a doozy, only did 13. 3km, but it was also the beginning to the Sayward Canyon hill. My pace was much slower but I know once I am done it I get to go down hill.

Lots of stretching and delicious food.

Blog Entry 5: April 8th, 2021

Woke at 5:15, did some stretches and ate breakfast. Started running by 6am. Frosty morning with new snow on the mountains. Sun and blue skies were a welcome surprise. While running I woke a herd of elk sleeping in a cut block about 30 feet from. They got up and scampered along side the road before crossing it. I ran 24.38km for the first stretch.

Blog Entry 4

Left the RV and headed out on slightly sore legs. The weather has been cooperating (still raining but light).

I ended up doing a few extra km’s by accident going down a logging road looking for a lake. Didn’t ever get to it. I finished the day at just after 6pm at a rest stop, completing 76.16k. I wanted to make 80 but the rain started coming down hard. As we looked for a camp spot it was hailing. Found a lake to camp for free, we each jumped in to properly end the day. Prepped for tomorrow, now time to eat.

Blog Entry 3: April 7th, 2021

Although I didn’t get my stretch or soak last night, I did get a jog with my dogs and a cuddle with my family before bed. At 6:00am I kissed my family, pulled the garbage to the curb (still have to do my jobs) and headed north. A few glowing eyes in the fields watched me as I left onto highway 19a. I made it to Oyster River at 8:22, took a quick break and back on the road. My next break is just outside Campbell River. I made it 45km by 12:00. I was surprised to see that my wife and son and driven up to cheer me on. Having some food now and heading out again Soo.

Blog Entry 2: April 6th, 2021

Last minute prep, and lots of hydrating. Getting the last groceries and making sure everything that needs batteries has batteries. Planning on stretching, a soak and an early night for optimum rest. Super excited to start running tomorrow morning.

Blog Entry 1: April 5th, 2021

I am getting all my gear sorted and ready to pack in Jared’s RV. My wife Erin is making delicious energy bars to keep me fueled during my run. I have been informed that donations have already came through in support of my fundraiser and I am getting very excited to get started. Two days till I Run North!



Multi-generational YANA support for Comox Valley family

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Originally published by the Comox Valley Record March 29, 2021

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

It’s been almost three decades since Jeanne and Ray Van Der Mark were introduced to a YANA, an organization unique to the Comox Valley, and one that has made a lifelong impact on their family and children.

YANA, which stands for “You Are Not Alone”, was founded by Sandra Williams in 1986, and has since been an invaluable resource through its funding and accommodation programs in place for pregnant women and families with children under 19, who require medical support outside of the Valley.

The Van Der Mark family found out just how special this community and the organization was in 1994 when their doctor suggested they reach out to YANA for assistance with their oldest child, who was diagnosed with bilateral clubfeet at birth and required multiple trips, surgeries, and visits to BC Children’s Hospital. They couldn’t believe the support that was available to them in a stressful time of their lives, and it was obvious that the memory still brought back the feeling, 27 years later. YANA provided them with funds to help them make the many trips they’d make to Vancouver, and it became a gift that has kept on giving.

“The best part of it was, we told them about where we were going, and we didn’t have to give receipts, we didn’t have to worry about gas or the ferry fees,” said Jeanne. “It was just such a relief.”

The family ended up being supported by YANA for many trips with their son, and again with their daughter who needed surgery for an eye condition that required them to travel again to Vancouver for the procedure and follow-up visits. Through it all, they continued to be cared for and supported by their community.

“It’s one less stress on your mind,” said Jeanne. “That was all taken away, and we could focus on the children each time. All we had to worry about was getting them there, getting them through the operation, we didn’t have to worry about anything else.”

The story doesn’t end there, because over 25 years after they were introduced to YANA, they received a call from their son-in-law, Scott, letting them know their daughter, Amber, was being transported to Victoria in preterm labour with their grandson, Ephraim; YANA was there again.

Overcome with emotion, Ray recalled the conversation from the hospital with his son-in-law, and the relief that YANA was behind their family.

“It overwhelmed me again,” Ray said. “I thought ‘wow.’ Scott said, ‘(YANA) gave me this envelope and said go, get ahold of us later.’ ” Scott and Amber had received the $200 cash emergency funding that the Comox Valley Hospital distributes on behalf of YANA to families who are sent out of the community for medical care, and immediately the family knew once again, they were not alone.

Amber and Scott ended up spending over three months in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) while their son Ephraim grew strong enough to return home, and YANA supported them throughout their time there.

The whole Van Der Mark family has become big YANA supporters, bidding on Christmas Trees each year at the Driftwood Mall at the annual Christmas Tree Fundraiser.

“We’ve continued every year bidding on trees,” said Ray. “Most of the time we’ve won two, sometimes we win one. We ended up winning three trees one year.”

The YANA Christmas Trees have become an annual tradition with the Van Der Mark family. They often end up donating their trees back to families who might not be able to afford one, and on Christmas day they do a gift exchange with their children and extended family with some of the gifts that come with the trees. The trees are a way they can give back, remember, and show their appreciation for an organization that has given their family so much and one they hope will give to others for many decades to come.


There are 2,500 Valley Vonka chocolate bars available throughout the Comox Valley, with Golden Tickets randomly inserted into five of the chocolate bars.

Each golden ticket will be eligible to win one of the following grand prizes:

• Mount Washington Alpine Resort family passes

• The Old House Hotel and Spa gift certificates

• Kingfisher Oceanside Resort, Spa and Restaurant gift certificates

• Canadian Tire $1,000 shopping spree

• Peninsula Co-op $1,000 gas card.

Total value of all prizes is $7,500.

The bars are available for purchase by donation (suggested $5 donation) at: