Families dealing with childhood cancer diagnoses will soon feel more supported on Vancouver Island.
The B.C. Childhood Cancer Parents Association officially launched its new islands chapter today at Saunders Subaru in Colwood.
Island families have received assistance from the association for nearly three years, but having a chapter closer to home means there will more support and services available without having to take a ferry ride.
“It’s been informally going on for years,” said Dave Saunders, the dealership’s manager and founder of the Comfy Kids program, which are partners in this initiative. “We are just formalizing it and hope to raise funds.”
The association helps parents of children diagnosed with cancer learn to navigate through treatments, counselling and other struggles along the way. Parents can call to arrange for free transportation to the B.C. Children’s Hospital or find accommodation at a discounted rate, Saunders said.
Central Saanich resident Susan Kerr has been working with the association and Island families for three years.
“In the past, families have been given opportunities and events, outings even. These have not been consistent and funding has not been consistent either,” she said. “This program will structure the opportunities and ensure, at least for a year, that families will have access to programs, networking opportunities and events.”
Kerr is the patient parent liaison and co-ordinator for family support, as well as sitting on the association board of directors. The work is very personal to Kerr, who endured the process when her five-year-old son was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in 2006. He is now 14 and in remission, but the experience launched Kerr into action. Now she wants to help as many families as she can.
“When we came home (to Victoria), I found all the networking and support was in Vancouver and on the Mainland,” she said, adding the scenario left her feeling isolated. “It makes me feel happy to help other families through this. Awareness is the key.”
For more information go to bcccpa.org.