Caren Morris, Lisa Alexander, Val Koutougos, Samantha Lawrence, Dylan Nickerson and Josh Dubee were among the friends of the Stradeckes, who helped serve food during Sunday’s fundraiser for the Saanich family. Mallory Cooper-Stradecke died in March at the age of 28, leaving behind her husband and father of three children. Wolf Depner/News Staff

Saanich rallies behind cancer-stricken family

Father of three grateful for community support after death of wife at the age of 28

Cadboro-Gyro Park buzzes with activity when hunger strikes Tristan, Phaedra and Audrey.

It is just around noon and the three children of Aaron Stradecke have spent part of their morning climbing, jumping and hanging off a nearby playground, whose central element consists of a climbing feature in the shape of a red-coloured Kraken with narrow, sprawling tentacles. But now it is time for some food.

A rare cancer claimed their mother Mallory Cooper-Stradecke less than three months ago, and this Sunday, friends and family of the Stradeckes gathered near the playground to sell hot dogs and soft drinks under a green tent to famished park visitors to raise funds for the family.

Caren Morris, one of the organizers, said Mallory embodied the cooperative spirit that defines Lambrick Park pre-school, where her son Tristan has been attending and she volunteered.

“Even though, she was struggling with cancer and going through so much, she wanted to be a duty parent,” said Morris. “She wanted to help in the classroom, she wanted to volunteer for activities, and she was so excited and engaged. She actually wanted to be a pre-school teacher as well. That was her goal, and she was so excited to be part of the pre-school.”

But the return of her cancer interrupted those plans, and her death at the age of 28 ripped a hole in the fabric of the pre-school. “When she passed away, we were all very devastated, because we had been holding on that for that miracle, and unfortunately, it didn’t happen,” said Morris.

Lisa Alexander, who has served with Morris on the executive of the pre-school, agreed. “Mallory’s generosity was really apparent, and her willingness to give back and contribute whenever she could was really, really inspiring,” she said.

Sunday’s fundraiser has only been the most recent show of support for the Stradeckes as they deal with the emotional and economic effects of Mallory’s death.

Family friend Lesley Arnold has not set up not one, but two GoFundMe pages, and a bottle drive earlier this year threatened to overwhelm organizers with donations. “People were driving in from the Peninsula, from the West Shore with their donations,” said Alexander, who called the response “mind-boggling.” Plans for additional fundraisers are currently underway.

“Being in the same community, we all just want to contribute and lift the Stradeckes up,” said Alexander.

Others, meanwhile, have come forward with offers of legal help to help Stradecke access funds that are currently unavailable because Mallory had failed to leave behind a will.

Stradecke, for his part, could not be more appreciative. “We got to spend some good time with lots of wonderful members of our community, some we know quite well, others just acquaintances, and some who we just met at the park, who just wanted to show us some support,” he said. “I’m just so very grateful for everyone who was able to be there to enjoy the day with us.”

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