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LETTER - Father of amputee thanks community for 10 years of support

Courtenay family thankful for support

Dear editor,

Recently my daughter, Julia, was practicing with the Canadian Paralympic volleyball team in Edmonton.

Two weeks earlier she had been “strutting her stuff on the catwalk,” as they say, at Vancouver Fashion Week. She tells me that she is also aiming to represent Canada at Paralympic weightlifting sometime in the future. Most athletes with Olympic aspirations are thinking hard about retirement at the age of 33, but Julia’s story has a different timeline.

I recently came across an article written by Renee Andor of the Comox Valley Record, dated July, 2014. It was a plea for help on GoFundMe for Julia, the former 'Minister of Sport' at GP Vanier who had been diagnosed with cancer and was about to lose her lower leg after a series of failed operations. She was deeply mired in debt, unable to work and her family wasn’t in a financial position to pay off her student loans as I was recently retired and living on a fixed pension.

The community got behind her. Her partner, Jason, stuck with her through all 10 operations and multiple trips to the BC Cancer Clinic in Vancouver from Victoria.  They married here at the Old House in Courtenay and he has been our rock throughout. The fundraiser helped relieve the anxiety and stress of an erstwhile unmanageable debt and I feel strongly that I want to let the numerous donors know what a difference their generous contributions have made in her life.

Julia dropped her dreams of getting a BA from U.Vic. Instead she took an office management course through NIC while in recovery, and landed a position with a subsidiary of the Provincial government. She battled through pain and at one point I was terrified that she would be turned into some kind of addict as she needed painkillers to cope with the aftermath of having her leg opened up repeatedly for surgeries.

 She found a Victoria craftsman who designed covers that clipped on to prosthetic legs and not only give the outline of a ‘normal’ leg but also look amazing as works of art. He asked her to model one for a photo shoot at the Johnston Street bridge and BCTV picked up on the story and made a video; the culmination of this was the catwalk in Vancouver.

 Julia is an amazing young woman of whom I am crazy proud, but I have to acknowledge that without the generosity and support of those who contributed to her well-being in her hour of need things could have turned out very differently. What a wonderful, supportive community we are blessed to live in.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Raymond Garford,