“In 2004, my son was diagnosed with cancer,” says Susan Kerr about her son Jacob, who, at the age of five, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a form of cancer that develops from immature nerve cells.
In her capacity as Vancouver Island liaison for the B.C. Childhood Cancer Parents Association (BCCCPA), Kerr has met many parents struggling to cope with their child’s cancer diagnosis. She knows first-hand what a traumatizing and life-changing experience it can be for the entire family.
“It’s a moment that changes your life in an instant. Parents go through a lot of stress when a child is diagnosed with cancer, and they need help.”
To provide financial and emotional support, the BCCCPA launched a new family support program for Vancouver Island parents with sick children in March 2014.
“We provide emergency assistance, patient liaisons, and social and recreational outings, such as arts and craft groups or outdoor adventures. What we really want to support is quality of life. It’s very important and can change dramatically with a cancer diagnosis.”
Over $23,000 Raised Through Paddle for Health
To run the program for an entire year BCCCPA needs $50,000 — and this goal now seems within reach thanks to some local helpers. One of them is Don Lowther, a kayak enthusiast who has been organizing paddle fundraising events to support cancer charities for years.
“I lost my mom to cancer and since then I’ve been doing fundraisers. Kayaking has been my passion for a long, long time, and paddling for cancer charities is my way to honour my mom’s memory.”
So far, Don’s “Paddle for Health” fundraising campaign has raised over $23,000 — enough for almost six months of services to cancer patients and their families.
To support his Chimp campaign, Don asked supporters to set up their own Giving Groups and raise at least $300 before September 6, the day of the paddle event.
To incentivize giving, a grant provided by the Bienfaisance Foundation ensured that every donation was matched — dollar for dollar.
“People gave very generously,” Don says. “I think the matching grant helped quite a bit with that. It creates excitement and it’s a message that my supporters could send out to their networks to encourage people to give.”
A Picture-perfect Day to Paddle for a Cause
On a warm and sunny morning on September 6, 73 charitable paddlers took to the water along Oak Bay on Vancouver Island. Among them, Susan Kerr and her son Jacob.
“I always tell parents that there isn’t lot we can control when a child is diagnosed with cancer,” Susan says. “But there are three things we do have control over: eating, sleeping and exercise. If we can focus on those basic things, stress becomes manageable. In that sense, paddling is a great outlet.”
Jacob is now 14 and his cancer is in remission, which allows him to lead a relatively normal life with the occasional check-up scan.
Getting some one-on-one time with her son, and paddling for a cause that has so deeply impacted her own family life, was a special treat, she says.
“It was such a great experience. A lot of cancer survivors came out and one of them came over to our boat and said to my son ‘Cancer affects your life, but it doesn’t determine who you are.’ I think it really meant something to him, to hear that after all he had to go through.”
If you’d like to give back quality of life to parents with children suffering from cancer, please give to Don’s Paddle for Health campaign. For a limited time, every dollar you give will be matched to double your impact, up to $250!