Paddle for Health returns to Willows Beach Park this Saturday under the lead of Don Lowther, volunteer organizer and founder of the former Kayak for the Cure.
For the second consecutive year, the eighth annual paddling fundraiser will raise cash for the Vancouver Island chapter of the B.C. Childhood Cancer Parents Association.
“It always amazes me to see how people will come together to support people in need,” Lowther said. “We’re so lucky to live in a community full of such caring and generous people.”
A longtime volunteer with the Power to Be Adventure Therapy Society, Lowther was introduced to Susan Kerr, Vancouver Island liaison for BC CCPA, to start the fundraising link last summer when 72 paddlers raised just shy of $25,000.
Twenty-eight youth are currently in active treatment at the Victoria Pediatric Oncology at VGH clinic with an additional 87 on long-term follow-up. Through the association’s Vancouver Island Family Support Program, they’ve provided a handful of outings for 13 families with 21 children so far this year.
The program has also offered emergency aid in the form of fuel and food vouchers to more than 35 families. On-site support includes special lunches for busy clinic days and child life resources, including family crafts.
“Crafts went a long ways, it doesn’t sound like a lot but our child life specialist … she was able to buy what she needed,” Kerr said. “Some of the kids are really struggling with their health … Crafts really help the time go by, because some of these kids are getting chemo four days a week, all day with nothing else to do.”
The association is also looking to add a candlelight gathering in November for bereaved families. Families from across Vancouver Island will be invited to attend and have opportunities for round-table discussions, listen to guest speakers and discuss celebration of life events for their children who have lost their lives to cancer. “I found support needed here on Vancouver Island for parents who have lost their child to cancer,” Kerr said. “The families now go over to Vancouver to have a celebration of life ceremony. What I would like, if nothing else, is to have a celebration here on the Island for families.”
They hope to include ongoing support for bereaved families into next year as well. “The candlelight gathering will get input from families as to what they would like to see,” Kerr said. “I’ve got some pretty keen bereaved parents who are involved.”
The BC CCPA Vancouver Island Support Program will also take on the adolescent and young adult group that has been running through Victoria General Hospital, supporting youth aged 13 to 20 in treatment and post-treatment. Primarily it’s kids getting together and doing recreational activities in a setting where everyone has had some similar experiences.
“It’s a hard age and when these kids are diagnosed with cancer their lives change and it can be very awkward,” Kerr said. “There’s a comfort level [with each other] there that you won’t find otherwise.”
They’ll also look at the increasing need to support those moving from in-treatment to palliative care. “That’s been a huge learning process for everybody,” Kerr said. “We’re looking to see how we can better transition.”
Paddle for Health is at Willows Beach on Sept. 12. Bring your own kayak, canoe or standup board, or register to paddle with a vessel provided. Visit paddleforhealth.ca to register or donate.