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Comox Valley woman with cancer diagnosis 'completely overwhelmed with everyone's generosity'
You may know her as an MC for the Child Development Centre Telethon or the Wearable Art Show.
Perhaps you know her from the art gallery, the Soroptimist club or the Sid Williams Theatre board.
Maybe you've listened to her teaching waste reduction or instructing at a Worldhost Customer Service training program.
Maybe you know her for her colourful hair.
If you haven't guessed her identity, it's Comox Valley resident Gayle Bates, who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
The single, self-employed mother of two and grandmother of two with a third on the way will not be able to work for about a year during treatments. Medical will cover radiation and chemotherapy, but not the mortgage, bills, gas, groceries, health-bolstering supplements and additional treatments.
The public is pitching in to help. Over the past week, about 240 people have contributed more than $16,000 through an online fundraising campaign dubbed Gayle Bates — Future Cancer Survivor. The goal is to raise $65,000.
Her children — Jackson Tegu and Ashley Hoffart — say their mother is "completely overwhelmed with everyone's generosity," as stated on the campaign page.
"I can't express the overwhelming, amazing response," Gayle said. "This is a community that I just love.
"I've been so fortunate to be involved in so many aspects of this rich community. It's the kind wishes and thoughts and encouragement — I'm printing them off and taking them with me.
"In the dark hours I think that's going to sustain me. It makes me feel that I have worth and value in my community. Thank you to everyone who has reached out."
Online comments convey Gayle's popularity: 'You're an inspiration'; 'You have left an everlasting impression on me'; 'If anyone can beat this, you can!'
"You never see her not smile," said Carolyn West-Price Touhey, owner of Two Eagles Lodge. "She gives so much to this community."
Comox Valley Art Gallery curator Anh Le describes Gayle as friendly, caring and enthusiastic.
"She’s a ball of fun, or positive energy, and so very generous with this energy,” Le said.
A group of Gayle's friends have organized a fundraiser, scheduled for April 4 at the Filberg Centre. The event will be a Bollywood theme with a live and silent auction, entertainment and dancing. The group hopes to raise about $10,000. Stay tuned for ticket information.
"This is a woman who has given non-stop to this community in so many different arenas," Friends of Gayle spokesperson Judy Atkinson said.
Longtime friend and group member Vivian Cruise says Gayle is a "major mover and shaker in the greater picture of things.
"Every school child in the Comox Valley and many in Campbell River know her from her recycling classes," Cruise said.
The support has left Gayle breathless.
"It gives me courage," she said, echoing Sally Field's Oscar acceptance speech when the actress said: 'You like me. You really like me.'
"Having people believe that I can get through this is like armour and weaponry."
At the same time, Gayle says she is terrified.
"These are dark times when you consider your own mortality. So looking forward to coming out the other end and getting back into my community."
Those wanting to help Gayle can donate at www.gofundme.com/gayle-bates.
There will also be a collection spot at Secret Drawers Lingerie, one of two sponsors for the April 4 event. The other is Level 10 Eurospa.