“We could thank you a thousand times and it would not seem enough,” wrote one family after receiving support from the Victoria-based David Foster Foundation.
“Thank you for your time. Thank you for the money. Thank you for the words of encouragement. Thank you for remembering my family’s dignity,” wrote another.
And these are just two of the hundreds of families whose children have had to undergo life-saving organ transplants and whose lives would have been that much more challenging without the help and support of the David Foster Foundation.
Twenty-five years ago, Foster, an award-winning composer, singer, songwriter and record producer, received a call from his mother, asking if he’d drop by the UCLA Medical Centre to visit a child originally from his own hometown who was waiting for a liver transplant.
Arriving at the hospital and asking if there was anything she wanted (thinking a trip to Disneyland might be in order), the little girl said her only wish was to see her sister – the cost to fly the sibling from B.C. to California was an added expense the family couldn’t afford.
After fulfilling the girl’s request and seeing the pure joy in the young patient’s eyes, Foster recognized a gap in Canada’s healthcare system. While provincial plans covered most transplant-related costs, all non-medical (but essential) expenses, such as air travel, hotel fees and vehicle rentals, were left to the family to deal with, adding an extra burden to an already stressful situation.
By the end of the day the seeds of what would become the David Foster Foundation were sown.
Now in its 26th year, the foundation works to provide financial support to Canadian families with children undergoing life-saving organ transplants. Since that first hospital visit, it has helped more than 700 families, and provided millions of dollars in direct support.
“Often in times of transplants, we have families that have to relocate to the transplant hospital in another city,” explains the Foundation’s Director of Family Relations, Brittany Decker.
The costs associated with such a move can be astronomical, especially if parents are unable to work during that time in order to be with the child, or have to support two households. “We’re keeping people’s roofs over their heads, we’re keeping food on their tables and helping reduce the stress” that comes when a child needs significant medical treatment. “We’re there to help the families, and depending on the situation, sometimes it’s one month of support, sometimes it’s a few years.”
While the program initially focused on British Columbia, in 2005 it was able to spread its reach across Canada; even today, however, there are several families right here in Victoria currently receiving support, Decker says. And because the foundation works specifically with children receiving transplants, some, like Victoria’s Evanne Fisher, come through the program more than once. Evanne had received a new heart as an infant and at seven required a second transplant.
Today, the foundation is launching its 30 by 30 Campaign, aiming to raise $30 million by its 30th anniversary, a way to provide a legacy fund to ensure the foundation’s essential services can continue meeting the needs of families for years to come, Decker says.
Among those helping Foster achieve his goals will be the Oak Bay Beach Hotel, which has committed to raising $2 million through events like last year’s 25th anniversary gala. Further donations will come from each ticket sold in its David Foster Dinner Theatre, a stunning feature of the recently re-built hotel that will host special events and the hotel’s famous dinner theatre.
“Support from donors like the Oak bay Beach Hotel is crucial to meeting that goal,” Decker says.
In addition to easing financial stress for families, the foundation also strives to increase organ donor awareness and registration both in Canada and the U.S.
For more information about the David Foster Foundation’s work or how you can help, visit www.davidfosterfoundation.com or call 250-475-1223.