A double-barrelled charge of initiatives to help families dealing with childhood cancer aims to advocate for parents and keep kids safe and comfortable.
The idea simmered for four years and burst forth as the Communities Helping Families Initiative and the Comfy Kids Program were officially launches at Saunders Subaru in Colwood tomorrow afternoon (April 18).
The purpose of the Communities Helping Families Initiative is to lobby VIHA along with federal, provincial and municipal governments to get a pediatric oncology program funded and established for Island families. Currently, for original diagnosis and specialized care, families travel to BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver. Treatments can last for days, weeks and years.
“I saw first-hand what it was doing to parents,” said Dave Saunders, of Saunders Subaru, who watched family friends struggle through the ups and downs with their five year old. “They weren’t getting anywhere advocating, they were busy taking care of a child.”
Currently on the lower Island, there are 100 long-term/follow up childhood cancer patients and 25 to 30 in active treatment, says Susan Kerr, patient parent liaison and director/co-ordinator family support for B.C. Childhood Cancer Parents Association.
“For many families it means multiple trips with critically ill children,” she said. Kerr herself made 40 round trips in 2005 as her son Jacob, then five years old, battled neuroblastoma.
“It’s been a hard battle. I’ve been advocating for support for families on a financial basis for six years,” Kerr said. “In this sense, it’s everyone collaborating in a positive way. It’s the start of positive change for the pediatric oncology families on Vancouver Island.”
The Communities Helping Families Initiative will listen to the parents and advocate on their behalf.
“We learned there were several different groups and families wanting to help … we can become a single voice advocacy group. This is all about synchronizing,” Saunders said. “The goal is to create a proper (pediatric oncology) program that is fully supported.”
The initiative will also link families to existing resources, including the Comfy Kids program which includes a courtesy 2013 Subaru Forester for families in need of transportation to and from Vancouver. Fuel and insurance are covered by donations from businesses in the community. The program will also include sea plane flights when timing is critical and a goodie bag of snacks and supplies as well as a quilt for each child.
“We’ve done our due diligence, now it’s time for the other area, government, to cough up,” he added. “If it takes our advocacy group to hold everyone’s feet to the fire, we’re leading by example.”
Quilts for kids
Christien Shipton, of Shirley, created the first quilt for Comfy Kids as a fundraiser. The Dr. Seuss themed creation is up for auction at Saunders Subaru in Colwood along with four framed Robert Munsch prints (anyone can bid on those items at the dealership). Shipton also offered to take the lead on co-ordinating a quilt for each child as part of the safe travel program.