By Andrea Rose
Special to the Record
2020 was the year of uncharted territory for Nicole Vogelzang and Chris Wilson, who, in the middle of a global pandemic, packed up their life and flew across the country all while expecting their first child, anxiously excited to settle into their new home in the Comox Valley.
Along with a massive move during a turbulent time in the world, the couple was also faced with some news about their unborn son. At 26 weeks it was discovered that he had a cleft lip, as well as some other concerning red flags, and presented potential complications after he was born. At a minimum, Linden would require surgery sometime after birth, and it was uncertain where this would take place and what it would all look like for the new parents.
“We didn’t know if we were going to have to fly back to Toronto,” said Chris. “Being our first child too, we just didn’t know what to expect. We knew that it was going to be a big challenge to have everything sorted out.”
It was eventually determined that the surgery would take place at BC Children’s Hospital, and through a connection at a local baby group, Nicole was pointed toward YANA to inquire about support for their trip.
“Because of the pandemic I didn’t have a baby shower or anything like that, so we were going to ask for support from our families to take our trip out to Vancouver,” said Nicole. “After I spoke to YANA they just really put me at ease and let me know we’d have help with accommodations, with food, our transportation. I just didn’t have to worry about that anymore. It was a huge relief for us.”
Many Comox Valley families have grown up around the YANA name; the organization (You Are Not Alone) celebrated its 35th anniversary this year. But for newcomers like Nicole and Chris, YANA is an exceptionally unique service that reflects the generosity of this special community and other local organizations alike.
“I didn’t know anyone coming here,” Nicole explained. “I’ll ask a question and a bunch of people will sort of come together and try to figure out how I can solve a problem. I just feel well supported even when I don’t know anyone here.”
According to executive director Kelly Barnie, word of mouth is the way that most families first hear about YANA. Barnie said there is always work to be done to make sure that all families know what support is available through the organization, or that support even exists.
“Many families are connecting with us for the first time because a family member, friend, a care provider or somebody else in their close circle referred them to YANA,” said Barnie. “We know there are still a lot of families that don’t know about YANA or perhaps don’t think they would be eligible for support, and we’re working to change that. It’s the community that rallies together to make YANA’s programs possible, and it’s the community that we’re counting on to continue to share about the help we are able to provide.”
For Nicole and Chris, the support they received was an unexpected and warm welcome from their new community in a time that it was needed most.
“Here, it’s almost overwhelming how much people care about each other,” said Chris.
Nicole agreed that they were caught by surprise at the generosity of so many.
“It was very, very shocking. It was a pinch-me sort of thing,” she said. “There’s a lot of hands and people helping, which is amazing.”
YANA’s funding and accommodation program is available to all Comox Valley families who are required to leave the community to receive medical care for a child under 19 or for a pregnant mother.
To find out more about YANA, visit www.yanacomoxvalley.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.