Kayaks and paddleboards peppered the shoreline of Oak Bay’s Willows Beach on Sept. 11 as about 90 people – dressed like hippies, butterflies and minions – arrived to raise money for the Island Kids Cancer Association.
It marked the fifth year that Paddle for Health has supported the association, but it has been raising money for families facing a pediatric cancer diagnosis since 2014. The kayakers, paddleboarders and canoers, who on Saturday morning made a seven-kilometre round trip to Cattle Point and back, raised money by asking their friends and families for donations.
Association executive director Susan Kerr said the event is one of the group’s main annual fundraisers and their goal was to hit $20,000 this year. With people still arriving with donations, Kerr said the total already stood at $23,000.
“It’s amazing, I’m floored by people who are just opening up their hearts to families who are really struggling right now,” she said. “It really epitomizes just how much of a caring and heartwarming community we have here in Victoria.”
The association supports about 120 Vancouver Island and Gulf Island families with kids who are at different stages in their diagnosis. They provide young cancer patients and family members with access to mental health services and help with a wide range of financial assistance.
“This journey is very difficult and a lot of things are taken from a family. The two main things that are taken when your child is diagnosed are finances and mental health.”
When a child’s diagnosis becomes the main focus, family members tend to let their own well-being falter, Kerr said.
“The real healing occurs in a strong family environment where everyone is as healthy as can be mentally and in a very strong, united community, which is what you see today,” she said.
Don Lowther, Paddle for Health’s organizer, said cancer has affected everyone at the event at one point in their life. “So they’re all here to support the families and support the kids.”
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