Unique fundraising campaign inspired by baby born 16 weeks premature

Local yogini performing 6,000 Sun Salutations as a YANA fundraiser

Stepanie Carr holds Baby Hunter. He weighed two pounds at the time of this photo. Photo courtesy Stephanie and Tom Carr

Submitted by Christina Nienaber-Roberts

Special to The Record

A local natural health practitioner is in the midst of a unique fundraising campaign for YANA.

You Are Not Alone (YANA) is a Comox Valley charity supporting families with children needing medical care away from home). On June 1, Comox Valley resident Christina Nienaber-Roberts started a 100-day challenge attempting to achieve 6,000 Sun Salutations during that time.

The drive is inspired by Baby Hunter Carr.

Hunter was born in Calgary on Sept. 22 at 24 weeks, weighing only 1 lb. 2 oz. With our gut and lungs and brain not yet fully developed at that early stage, his chances of staying alive were precarious.

Baby Hunter’s hand holding a finger gives some context as to how small he was at birth. Photo courtesy Stephanie and Tom Carr

So, his great aunt, a Valley resident, asked her friend Christina whether she might be willing to offer Hunter and his family distance energy healing. This request could not have come at a more perfect time, for with COVID, Christina’s work as an NPH had come to a sudden halt. As biodynamic craniosacral therapist and yoga teacher with additional training in various energy work styles, she was unable to offer in-person sessions or classes as she has a clinic and yoga studio at her home and her husband’s immune system had been compromised by recent cancer treatment. Under these circumstances, she had been contemplating volunteering in some way that would not require her to leave home, so the request to offer distance support to Hunter and his family was a perfect match!

As Hunter’s life was potentially so tenuous at that time, Christina called on some of her like-resonant friends the world over to join her in supporting Hunter and his family via mediations/prayers, distance energy healing or simply holding them all in their hearts or sending loving thoughts their way. The response was, in Hunter’s Nana (Brenda’s sister) Kathy’s words: “Overwhelming – all this wonderful support means so much to us.”

Thus, thanks to Hunter, a whole support community spontaneously formed that gave many who are part of it a good cause to focus on and to send positive energy to during the pandemic – a time that could so easily feel very isolating. This was of course only a small part of Hunter’s family’s support circle of course, which included a very experienced and dedicated medical team, as well as their own extended family and their combined circle of friends. To the extent that the COVID directive allowed, that is.

At the center of it all were Hunter’s parents, Stephanie and Tom, holding him in their constant loving care, for during the many months he was in the hospital they took turns to be with Hunter 24/7, mostly holding him in their arms, while alternating to also take care of his two older siblings. Due to COVID no one else could help with that – not even Nana Kathy.

Although Hunter, now 10 months old, is thriving and starting to laugh out loud, he has had to overcome many physical challenges, including two abdominal surgeries and surgeries to both his eyes, which have been affected by his ongoing need for oxygen. He has also had to deal with a battery of tests and still has minor heart surgery on the cards, as well as possibly needing the removal of his left eye due to shrinkage.

Baby Hunter Carr. Photo courtesy Stephanie and Tom Carr

Despite all these enormous challenges, Hunter is a little bundle of love and joy and in all photos, his good eye is positively twinkling. No wonder his support groups are all head over heels in love with him. He is a true opener of hearts, a ray of sunshine – and is a treasure to his Nana, who during all of this has had to deal with a number of life-threatening health challenges herself: a heart attack and stroke and aggressive cancer. Another close relative has been dealing with a lung tumour on top of newly diagnosed Parkinson’s, and others are dealing with health challenges as well. A very close-knit family, they have been navigating each new development with infinite grace and they say that they are feeling really well supported by their medical teams, their friends and family nearby and far, and by the energetic support of the world-wide community that has evolved around Hunter.

Why are we sharing all of this? So that hopefully some families dealing with any similar challenges will know You Are Not Alone – YANA is there for you. And don’t be shy: know that if you share your story it will touch people’s hearts and they will offer support of all kinds, perhaps beyond what you might expect!

“Receiving is an act of giving” it is said, and “as we give, so we receive.”

Both have been proven again and again the case with Hunter, his family, and their worldwide community. Christina, for one, has received so much! Hunter’s plight got her back into distance healing, something she had not done for many years; Hunter helped her deeply reconnect with friends far and wide; and Hunter’s group has also started reaching out to others in the circle who have faced health challenges or with family members who have developed health issues. Just this past week Christina herself has had to call on the circle to beam energetic support to South Africa, where her beloved niece in Johannesburg (Gauteng) contracted COVID-19 and was very ill. And now Hunter has given Christina the perfect opportunity to do more, by inspiring this fundraiser for YANA and hopefully by sharing his story to increase awareness about the wonderful work that YANA is doing. For had Hunter been born not in Calgary, but in the Comox Valley, he would not have been able to receive the intensive care he has been needing the past 10 months within his home community – his family would have had to travel elsewhere with him and live away from home for many months.

So, on June 1 Christina entered a 14-day solo retreat at her home in order to deepen her yoga practice and get a jump-start start towards her 6,000 Sun Salutation pledge. As her practice is slower and more mediative than most, that will amount to at least 600 hours – the equivalent of two 300-hour yoga teacher trainings back-to-back – possibly even more. It may well prove to be quite a challenge, and that is exactly what it is meant to be, in honour of all the challenges that Hunter and his amazing family have moved through with such grace already – and are still facing. The Sun Salute challenge will take three months to complete, and will quite serendipitously end towards the time when, according to Dr. Bonnie Henry, we may be able to return to a more ‘normal’ life early September and Christina may be able to re-start her business. With even greater serendipity, after setting the goal Christina realized that September is Hunter’s first birthday month (he was not due till January the following year); and it may also end up being when Nana Kathy completes her first round of chemotherapy.

Once the 100-day Sun Salute challenge is over, Christina has another Hunter-related fundraiser for YANA up her sleeve – so, watch this space!

Meanwhile, Christina challenges other yogis and yoginis – to do something similar for a charity of your heart!

Christina’s dream is raising a dollar for every Sun Salutation, so, if Hunter and his family’s story touched your heart – or the 6,000 Sun Salute challenge inspired you – and you would like to donate to YANA in support, people can donate in several ways (all listed on the website www.yanacomoxvalley.com ). The easiest options are usually:

• E-transfer to info@yanacomoxvalley.com. Don’t forget to mention the name of the fundraiser 6000 Sun Salutes, so the funds can be allocated correctly. YANA is set up for auto-deposit.

• Cheques can be mailed to the YANA office, 102-256 Rosewall Crescent, Courtenay, BC V9N 8R9.

• Cash or cheques can be dropped off at the YANA office. Office hours are Tuesdays and

Thursdays 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

With a thank you in advance form YANA, Hunter and his family, Christina and the Circle who support our little Hero!

Text and photos submitted by: Christina Nienaber-Roberts, MSc, RNHPCA, RYT, RCST

www.relaxandfeelradiant.com; (250) 890-9008

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Christina Nienaber-Roberts started a 100-day challenge attempting to achieve 6,000 Sun Salutations. Photo by Kim Letson