Ali and Blake Usher are grateful for all the support YANA has given their family since Blake’s birth, and will be participating in this year’s Comox Bike Co. YANA Ride as a way of giving back to the charity. Photo supplied

Ali and Blake Usher are grateful for all the support YANA has given their family since Blake’s birth, and will be participating in this year’s Comox Bike Co. YANA Ride as a way of giving back to the charity. Photo supplied

Usher family participates in Comox Bike Co. YANA Ride as a way of saying ‘thanks’

Andrea Postal

Special to The Record

Team McQueen is decked out and ready to take donations and ride for YANA families in this year’s Comox Bike Co. YANA Ride.

This is the third year Nick and Ali Usher have participated in the organization’s annual event, and they have every reason in the world to come together to give back to YANA (You Are Not Alone).

The Ushers were first introduced to YANA three and a half years ago when their youngest son, Blake, was born 15 weeks early by emergency c-section at St. Joseph’s hospital. Shortly after an emotional and challenging delivery, Blake was air-ambulanced to Victoria General Hospital and his parents prepared to follow close behind. Before they left the hospital Nick and Ali were given a gift from YANA that would change the course of their time away from home.

“The nurses just handed us this envelope, it says YANA on it, and you open it and there’s all this cash in it and you’re like, “whoa, whoa, what’s this for?” shares Ali, who was blown away by the no-strings-attached gift they received from the organization.

The $200 gift was just the beginning of the support they would receive from YANA. The cash funds were made available through the Hospital Emergency Funding Program, designed to provide immediate help to families who are transferred out of the community for medical care. Nick connected with YANA shortly after they arrived in Victoria, and immediately many of their worries melted away.

“Nick’s like, ‘I got this email, they said they’d call us in the morning. We don’t have to pay for anything,’” said Ali, moved by the memory of how quickly and completely YANA stepped in to help with monthly financial support, as well as covering the cost of their accommodations at Jeneece Place.

And that was only the beginning for the Usher family. Blake spent six months in the Victoria Hospital NICU, and the family would have many more trips to come.

“All of the appointments following him coming home started coming in. You have your neonatal follow-ups, child development, multiple surgeries,” said Ali, who feels lucky their situation wasn’t more difficult. “You think about these other kids and families that are traveling way more than us. It’s the funding to go, the gas to go, the food to go, the organization to go, the missing work to go. It’s a lot and it adds up.”

Blake was recently discharged from the neonatal follow-up program, but the family continues to make trips to Victoria for a diagnosis the family received for him last year.

“He (Blake) got diagnosed with cerebral palsy last January (2020), and so he’s had more follow-ups with an orthopedic surgeon in Victoria that we go down to see,” said Ali.

The family makes many of these trips each year, and YANA’s support has made a tremendous impact, one that has trickled down to friends and family who are also eager to give back to YANA’s cause and are excited to be participating in Team McQueen for this year’s Ride.

“This is our first year as a team fundraising all together,” said Ali. “Last year we were together, fundraising individually. We were like, why aren’t we doing this together? Let’s make a big team and let’s make as much money as we can.”

Team McQueen, which consists of Blake’s grandmother, aunts, and other close family members, has a goal of riding 25 km and raising at least $5,000. The team has a route picked out that Nick tells us consists of just about every hill in Comox, and a few rest stops along the way, like Point Holmes Beach, and Blue Haven blueberry farm. Team members will take turns pulling Blake in the bike trailer, which the team has decked out in bright signs displaying their support for YANA.

“If you’re donating, you’re donating exactly back, dollar for dollar, right back into your community to your own friends and family,” said Ali. “You never know when you’re going to be in a situation when you’ll need YANA’s help.”

To learn more about YANA or to register or donate to any participating rider, visit: www.yanacomoxvalley.com

Andrea Postal is in the Family Services department at YANA.

Comox ValleyYANA