General News

Doctor brewing up unique YANA fundraiser

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Brad Harris and his wife Denise display a bottle of Royston Nano Brewery beer at Gladstone Brewing Company, the site of an upcoming fundraiser for YANA featuring Harris's beer. PHOTO BY ERIN HALUSCHAK

Brad Harris and his wife Dennyse display a bottle of Royston Nano Brewery beer at Gladstone Brewing Company, the site of an upcoming fundraiser for YANA featuring Harris’s beer. PHOTO BY ERIN HALUSCHAK

Brad Harris isn’t afraid of a challenge.

The full-time family physician by day and self-taught brewer by night (and owner of the Royston Nano Brewery) will soon brew the most beer he has ever brewed – 1,800 litres to be exact.

And as much as he likes to share with friends, family and fellow beer-drinkers, this beer is aimed not only at ‘hop heads,’ but to give back to those who helped his family during one of their biggest challenges.

Harris, who practises at the Comox Medial Clinic and St. Joseph’s General Hospital, began brewing his first batch of beer in January 2012.

In November of that same year, his daughter Linden became ill.

“You would think I would know; it happened literally overnight. At 9:30 when I got home she was coughing and had a fever … a day later she was helicoptered off-Island. I drove with my mom to Vancouver and showed up at Children’s Hospital at the ER, and they were moving her up to oncology.”

After a battery of tests, Linden, then three-and-a-half years old, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, one of only 35 children in the province to get diagnosed with leukemia every year.

Following two-and-a-half years of chemotherapy, Linden is now healthy with a 90 per cent chance the cancer will never return, explained Harris.

While in Vancouver, Harris and his family depended on support from the Comox Valley – particularly that of You Are Not Alone (YANA), which provides accommodations and funding for local families who need to travel outside of the area for treatment for a child under 19 years of age.

Now, with the help of his brewing skills and a partnership between the Royston Nano Brewery and Gladstone Brewing Company in Courtenay, Harris is giving back, challenging himself to make his largest quantity of “unapologetically in-your-face, pushed-to-the-limit IPA.”

The limited release began brewing at Gladstone this week, and will go on sale May 6, as part of the It’s Not Just Beer, It’s Love event for pint sales and growler fills, with all profits donated equally between YANA and BC Children’s Hospital Oncology services.

Harris hopes to raise around $10,000.

“The Harris family has a powerful story,” explained Ocean Varney, community relations co-ordinator for YANA. “It’s a moving experience to hear them speak about their journey, as a family, through Linden’s treatment. Their commitment to giving back to their community and passion for YANA is inspiring. It’s definitely an endeavour that’s powered by love, and on our end we are feeling the love, for sure.”

The beer will be using a third generation Gladstone yeast – a technique used regularly – which was used to create the brewery’s porter and IPA.

Harris’s love for all things beer developed a few years ago after a dinner with friends, who asked him outside of medicine, about his passion.

“I sat back and said: ‘let me think about this. What have I been consistently interested in? Beer.’ It’s a silly thing to have a passion in, but I’ve been interested in it since I was legally able to drink.

“I’ve spent time travelling around the world, and we’ve always made sure to take time out wherever we go to make sure and try the beer. I thought – ‘hey I can brew it.’”

Between working with his patients at the hospital and spending time with his wife and two children and brewing beer, Harris admitted with a laugh he doesn’t sleep much.

The It’s Not Just Beer, It’s Love event takes place May 6 at Gladstone Brewery, starting at 5 p.m. For more information visit

~ Erin Haluschak, Comox Valley Record 

Volunteers – the roots of strong communities

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Volunteer at Annual Simon's Cycles YANA Ride

Tammy, a volunteer at the annual Simon’s Cycles YANA Ride.

Mention the word ‘volunteer’ to anyone involved in a non-profit society and their response will likely include the word ‘backbone.’

April 10-16 is National Volunteer Week — a time to celebrate the 12.7 million Canadians who donate time to numerous causes. The website describes volunteers as ‘the roots of strong communities.’

At Volunteer Comox Valley, the vision is to be ‘an agent of change that promotes community engagement through the power of service.’

People volunteer time for various reasons, be it helping others or doing something fun in their spare time.

There is also an economic side to volunteerism. British Columbians, for instance, contribute an estimated 114 million volunteer hours each year.

“If you look at it Canada-wide, the number of hours contributed is about five per cent of the GDP,” said Tyler Voigt, executive director at Volunteer Comox Valley (VCV). “That’s a substantial number.”

Locally, there are numerous volunteer opportunities with organizations such as the Cumberland Community Schools Society, the Therapeutic Riding Society, Relay for Life, Scouts Canada, Girl Guides and the Community Justice Centre Society. These are all listed on the VCV website.

Vancouver Island MusicFest would not happen without its estimated 1,300 volunteers who tend to the gates, stages, food and other aspects of the annual gathering.

“Our volunteers are the heart and the backbone of MusicFest,” executive producer Doug Cox said. “The festival could not happen without them, nor would we want it to!”

You Are Not Alone (YANA) — another Comox Valley entity — has a pool of 200-plus volunteers to contact when the time comes to host an event, such as the YANA Ride. It also has about 15 volunteers, including a board of directors, who assist on a regular basis. Community relations co-ordinator Ocean Varney describes them as an eclectic variety of youths, retirees, parents, empty nesters and millennials who are generous, lively, fun, and full of heart.

“That YANA is able to fulfill our mandate, of offering accommodation and direct funds to Comox Valley families that need to travel outside our community for the medical care of a child or pregnant mother, is directly linked to the time and effort generously given by our volunteers,” Varney said. “From our board of directors who not only govern but are active volunteers, to our regular office assistants, to our event co-ordinators and event volunteers, they are the backbone of our organization as well as the heart.”

A Stats Canada survey indicates 10 per cent of volunteers contribute over 50 per cent of volunteer hours. Most are 65 years or older. The survey also determined that youth are more frequently involved but on a shorter time period.

“It comes back to having time available to do it,” said Voigt, noting social isolation can be a problem for the elderly. “I think that volunteering to get out of the house is the first thing, but then they realize there’s even more benefits than that.”

A new angle of Volunteer BC is to engage the baby boomer demographic.

“We need to find ways to engage them because they’re the ones that are going to have to take up the torch essentially,” Voigt said. “With this disparity in time contribution, there could be a bit of a problem there for non-profit organizations in the future if we don’t find ways to engage the baby boomer demographic.

“Because it’s an aging demographic, we’re going to have more people that are going to need hospice support, we’re going to need more long-term care facilities. We’re going to need a lot of things that engage volunteers as well. It’s kind of a Catch-22. It’s a bit tricky to provide more service when you don’t have enough volunteers to provide it…It’s funding as well. It’s a big question right now in the health care sector.”

Voigt takes pleasure when explaining to clients that volunteers can pick and choose and dictate time commitment — unlike job seekers who take what they can get.

“Do what you’re passionate about, do what you’re empathetic about, what you care about in the community.”

Volunteer Comox Valley serves 300 to 400 clients a year. Many are newcomers to the community, or new retirees. Charities, service organizations and individuals looking for volunteers can advertise with VCV.

This year, the organization received a $1,550 grant from the Comox Valley Community Foundation. The money will be used to purchase a digital projector to help train volunteer co-ordinators.

“It’s going to be very helpful,” Voigt said.

Volunteer Comox Valley is located at Unit C1 – 450 8th St. in Courtenay. Call (250) 334-8063, or visit their website at

~ Scott Stanfield, Comox Valley Record

The Kids’ Clutter Is Back For Spring!

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Gear up for summer with all the great gear on sale at the YANA Kids’ Clutter Sale on Sunday, April 17th.

Join us at Courtenay Elementary, 1540 McPhee Avenue, from 10am until 2pm and shop until you drop. Clothing, shoes, books, toys, sports equipment, baby gear, and more, all at amazing prices!

This semi-annual sale is a ‘must’ for young families.

Kids Clutter April 2016

For more information click here.

Record amount raised at annual YANA auction

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Auctioneer Dave Stevens gets top dollar for a Steve Nash-autographed Los Angeles Lakers jersey at the YANA Big Love Benefit. - Photo courtesy McKinnon Photography

Auctioneer Dave Stevens gets top dollar for a Steve Nash-autographed Los Angeles Lakers jersey at the YANA Big Love Benefit. Photo courtesy of McKinnon Photography.

The Comox Valley residents showed a lot of love at the YANA Big Love Benefit, held at the Florence Filberg Centre.

The annual dinner and auction raised $87,000 for You are Not Alone, the community organization that helps Comox Valley families who need to travel to access medical treatment for their children.

It was the highest amount raised in the 26-year history of the event, and a 20 per cent increase over the $70,000 amount raised at the 2015 auction.

YANA community relations manager Ocean Varney said the generosity of the Comox Valley never ceases to amaze her.

“This was our first year calling it the Big Love Benefit and that’s fairly accurate. The people there were just full of love and generosity and fun,” she said. “It’s incredible, really. Every year seems amazing to me, but this was just unreal.”

“Corporate sponsorship was up this year, which is another big reason for that increased total. Because of sponsorship, all the expenses were covered and we could really give everything raised directly to the cause.”

It was not only the corporations coming through.

“The live auction was amazing,” said Varney. “We raised $30,000 in the live auction alone. That’s more than last year, with fewer items auctioned off.”

The silent auction items weaved a path throughout the facility, out the door and down the hallway, as more than 200 items were available.

The YANA crew will now turn its attention to the YANA (Spring) Kids’ Clutter Sale, Sunday, April 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Courtenay Elementary gym (1540 McPhee Ave.). There are many ways for the community to get involved in this event. More information here.

~Terry Farrell, Comox Valley Record

Big Love Benefit raises $87,000 for local children and their families

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The love shared at last Friday’s Big Love Benefit was big indeed and we are incredibly grateful for everyone’s contribution. Our hearts are so full. Thank you!

YANA Big Love Benefit Thank You

Tickets to YANA Big Love Benefit Sold Out Extremely Fast

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Tickets to the YANA Big Love Benefit sold out very quickly. If you would like to be added to a wait list, please email and specify how many tickets you hope to purchase. We will contact you if tickets become available. If you purchased tickets that you don’t need, please let us know as soon as possible. Thank-you!

YANA Big Love Benefit set for February 26th

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In its 26th year, the YANA Big Love Benefit, will host a fabulous crowd of supporters, who come for the food, friends, fun, and most importantly to be part of the giving that surrounds YANA in the Comox Valley.

Dinner by Tria Fine Catering and a silent auction are followed by a much anticipated photo Auction 2015presentation by McKinnon Photography, featuring a YANA family. A raffle for West Jet tickets and an exciting live auction add to the fun as do some other surprise additions to this year’s gala. As the organization’s largest annual fundraiser the event plays an important role in funding YANA’s programs.

Holding the event is a huge undertaking admits YANA Executive Director, Marcie Dumais, “This special night is possible only through the amazing efforts of our volunteers and the generosity of our community, which is at the heart of who we are and what we are able to accomplish.”

An example of the commitment of YANA’s volunteers is in auctioneer Dave Stevens who has been the evening’s auctioneer since its inception.

“I was approached by YANA founder, Sandra Williams, she had the idea of writing to celebrities for signed donations and auctioning them off, I immediately said ‘Let’s do it’,” remembers Stevens. “That was 26 years ago, the auction has changed and grown since then, I’d say it’s better than ever.”

“Dave leaves his winter retirement vacation early each year to fly back to the Comox Valley Dave Stevens at YANA's 2015 eventand be part of this event,” says YANA President, Judy Cryer. “We are truly humbled by his commitment to YANA and that of all our volunteers and donors who make this night possible.”

For his part Stevens is happy to do it, “There’s a wonderful feeling in the room,” he says. “It really is filled with some very big love!”

YANA provides accommodation and funding to Comox Valley families who need to travel for the medical care of a child or pregnant mother. Last year YANA was able to help 146 local children and their families.

To be part of the generosity that is required to host such an event, you can donate an item or service to the auction. Consider getting a group of colleagues, friends or teammates together to donate jointly. Or help cover event expenses by becoming a sponsor of the Big Love Benefit. Details on sponsorship opportunities are available upon request.

Interested in attending? Tickets go on sale Sunday, January 24th at 9:00am and are sold through YANA’s online ticket store. Tickets are $75 each. Last year tickets sold out in 5 minutes so mark your calendars and set your alarm clocks!

Local Chiropractors Give Back

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Dr. Marnie Grant and Dr. Ken Heinrich of Courtenay Family Chiropractic helped YANA start the new year off in the right direction with a donation that they hope will help strengthen local families.

Courtenay Family Chiropractic 2016

Dr. Heinrich and Dr. Grant, with Courtenay Chiropractic staff, present cheque to YANA Board Directors, Lauren Clark and Adam Wunderlich.

“Just as we are dedicated to wellness in our practice we want to contribute to the wellness of our community, we feel our best resource is in our expertise and looked for an opportunity to incorporate that with giving,” explains Grant.

Spinal Wellness Education proved just such an opportunity. These chiropractors regularly conduct complimentary spinal check-ups at various health expos in the Comox Valley. 100% of all fees collected for in-office check-ups that arise from these events are donated to YANA.

“It is through these events, with the help of all our amazing patients, past and present, that we are able to make this donation,” says Heinrich. “We have seen many clients through our practice and have personal friends who have benefitted from the care of YANA and we felt it was a perfect fit for our support.”

Dr. Ken and Dr. Marnie both have a passion for keeping familes healthy. They love raising their two beautiful daughters, and working in the Comox Valley. They both enjoy an active lifestyle and much of their spare time is spent, with their family, in the outdoors.

YANA Christmas cracker prize a win for everyone!

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This holiday season 5,000 YANA Cristmas crackers were sold across the Comox Valley. They contained the usual fun pleasures plus 50 crackers held special prizes, including one with a grand prize.

Braydon Nickel was the lucky winner of the 2015 grand prize, a diamond ring, donated by Mark the Gold Guy.

Ring Winner 2015

This gorgeous piece has an appraised value of $4545. Braydon opened the winner while celebrating at an early Christmas dinner with his family.

This fundraiser is a holiday tradition at YANA that is supported by the community. Volunteers spend hundreds of hours crafting these festive treats, local businesses sell them and many of our friends purchase and make them a special part of their Christmas celebration.

The proceeds from YANA Christmas crackers support our funding and accommodation program for families who must travel outside our community for the medical care of a child or pregnant mother. Last year YANA was able to assist 146 local children and their families. To find out more about how we help, click here.

A big thank you to everyone who made this campaign a success and such a big win for YANA!

Merry Christmas

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Happy holidays from the YANA Board of Directors!  Back left: Adam Wunderlich, Lauren Clark, Kelly Rusk, Kate Berg and Marcel Moose. Front left: Laura Bomback, Judy Cryer, Lesley Hunter and Hugh Mackinnon.  Missing from photo: Ron Arksey.