Paddlers set sail off the shores of Willows Beach on one of the few soggy days this summer in a gesture of philanthropy and connection.
Paddle for Health raised close to $25,000 for programs through the new Island Kids Cancer Association.
Those funds benefit the CARE for Kids Program, said Susan Kerr, founder and program co-ordinator with the Island Kids Cancer Association. CARE stands for connection, assistance, resources and emergency.
Connection is critical, Kerr says. “Families can feel a sense of isolation living on an island – although a lot of families can stay here because we have a pediatric oncology unit here at Vic General, – a lot of families have to travel,” Kerr said. They fund social programs and outings, including work with PISE and Power to Be, to focus on health and wellness for the entire family.
“Getting through this diagnosis is a whole family event,” Kerr said. “If we can see some laughs and parents relaxing and talking to other parents and connecting, it’s so worth it.”
Assistance pertains to the youngsters. “We make sure the child life specialist [at VGH] has crafts and games. A lot of the time kids are in the clinic all day long,” Kerr said. “It really does go a long way having the tickle trunk full of prizes.”
Resources, for example, include a session for famiies this month on going back to school, covering oncology issues for kids those who can and can’t go back to school this fall as well as the siblings whose lives are turned upside down.
“It’s really linking families on this journey to the information they need to cope and survive and feel a little bit of control,” she said.
Emergency is one of the most often used tools. It includes fuel vouchers and grocery cards (the last batch donated by Peninsula Co-op). “Families will never put their hand out, but the social worker will give them knowing in most cases families will need fuel and grocery vouchers.”
CARE among a litany of programs Kerr has underway despite dealing with her own son’s secondary cancer diagnoses in February. Jacob was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in 2004 at the age of five. Now his mom sees a positive convergence of groups in the Paddle for Health (formerly Kayak for the Cure), led by Don Lowther.
“A lot of his core group of participants have been touched by adult cancer,” Kerr said. “It’s the first event I’ve been a part of where you see [adult and childhood cancers] merge together.”
“On a personal connection … last year Jacob was in a kayak with me. He had a woman reach out to him. He was 16 at the time and I realized he could relate more to her than a child who had cancer.”