Organizers are delighted that more than 185 cyclists will be supporting Comox Valley families at this year’s Simon’s Cycles YANA Ride.
But the buzz at YANA is focused on five very special guests who will serve as volunteers at the event. Markus, Gabe, Tori, Anna and Owen are all members of YANA families, who will be welcoming cyclists back to Marina Park as they cross the finish line on Sunday.
“It’s fantastic that these children will be coming out to support future YANA families, we are super excited to host these very special volunteers. They are the reason why we will all be at Marina Park on Sunday,” said YANA executive director Marcie Dumais.
Variety of distances
Participants of the second annual Simon’s Cycles YANA Ride choose their route and cycle anywhere from five, 25, 50 or 100 kilometres.
Event expenses have been completely covered by sponsorship. As a result, money raised from registrations, pledges and t-shirt sales will go direct to YANA families. There is still time to register to ride, make a donation by pledging a rider, or volunteer on ride day.
“Many of these young volunteers have shared their experiences to help YANA communicate what we do, their stories are the heart of our website,” said Dumais.
Iron Man Markus
Eleven-year-old Markus, or “Iron Man Markus”, loves Nerf guns and video games, and he’ll be starting Grade 6 in the fall.
It was during Grade 5 that he earned the name Iron Man Markus.
He tripped and hit his head at school then ended up at St. Joseph’s Hospital, where they found two tumours, one on top and the other at the back of his head.
After undergoing major surgery and chemotherapy, Markus recently celebrated one month cancer-free.
Gabe is seven years old and has undergone years of leukemia treatment in Vancouver. During that time, YANA has had the privilege of being part of a journey which started suddenly when he was only two-and-a-half years old.
Tori was born in 2007 at the B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver with a heart condition. She required open-heart surgery four days after she was born. Tori spent her first year in hospital where she received a tracheotomy, ventilator and a second heart surgery. YANA financially assisted her family’s stay in Vancouver for the first 15 months of her life, allowing them to focus on Tori.
Nine-year-old Anna spent significant time away from home receiving treatment for kidney cancer. Although her father was with her, she was separated from her mom and brothers, Rens and Diego, who visited when they could. Anna’s mother, Hendrika, credits YANA’s financial support and the use of the apartments with keeping the family together.
“A sick child has a huge impact on family-life, the stress, your kid in pain, sick, struggling and sad, it’s a lot of emotions,” said Hendrika. “What a blessing to know that the community supports YANA and therefore you. It’s a big help mentally as well as financially.”
Owen was born premature and spent the first 117 days of his life in NICU at BC Children’s Hospital. He has been living with cerebral palsy for six years. YANA has been with his family since the beginning.
“Markus, Gabe, Tori, Anna and Owen have such courageous stories. Each of those stories was made more manageable because of YANA and the Vancouver apartments,” said Patti Fletcher, co-owner of Simon’s Cycles. “They are the inspiration for this year’s fundraising goal; we’d like to raise $32,000, which would pay for five months of accommodation expenses for Comox Valley families.”
YANA helped 112 local families in 2013, funded 290 medical trips, provided over $75,000 in financial assistance and offered homes away from home in Nanaimo, Victoria and Vancouver.
To read more about these and other YANA stories visit www.yanacomoxvalley.com.
There is still time to support Comox Valley families by registering for the ride, making a donation or volunteering.
For full details visit www.yanacomoxvalley.com.