Gift guide helps support programs for Okanagan families facing cancer

Canadian Cancer Society

If you want to make an impact this Christmas with your gift-giving, perhaps the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) Kelowna has what you’re looking for. Just a $15 gift buys camp essentials for children and teens at a CCS-funded summer camp. A $25 gift ensures a ride to treatment appointments for someone living with cancer.

This year’s Gifts for the Cure guide is a shift for the organization, which had to rethink its usual fundraising initiatives due to the pandemic. “We were gearing up to introduce an exciting new fundraising event, but of course that wasn’t possible,” says Allyssa Bossio, event organizer for CCS Kelowna. “So we adapted to virtual events and digital campaigns like the gift catalogue. These are amazing opportunities to support Canadians living with cancer during this unprecedented time.”

The gift guide may also turn out to be a great opportunity for CCS in a year where so much focus has been on protecting others in the community, Bossio says. “We anticipate this catalogue being an extra popular choice for gift-givers this year. People are looking to connect with their loved ones in meaningful ways, especially if they aren’t able to see each other in person for the holidays,” she explains.

Story continues below advertisement
Canadian Cancer Society. Canadian Cancer Society

Many gifts in the guide are matched, which means they make even more of a difference. The “Support for Canadians during COVID-19” gift, for example, is being matched by Economical Insurance up to a total of $50,000. “Those who purchase this gift will have double the impact. It supports our online and phone-based peer support programs as well as funding a clinical trial for a treatment that can potentially boost the immune system of people with cancer,” Bossio says.

The Gifts for the Cure guide features more than 35 items that will help support programs serving 1,500 people in the Southern Interior region of B.C. annually.

One of the programs is the Travel Treatment Fund, which offers financial assistance to those travelling into Kelowna for cancer treatment and the family members coming with them. In 2019, the CCS offered $65,000 in travel assistance to patients and their families, according to Bossio.

Story continues below advertisement

Gifts will also help support the 35-bed Southern Interior Rotary Lodge, which is operated by the CCS and located next to Kelowna’s cancer clinic.

“It’s a place to stay during treatment and it’s supposed to be a home away from home,” Bossio says. “People there can get together, share their experiences and have meals together.”

Residents can also join programs such as movie nights and Look Good, Feel Better workshops.

Philip Jansen, the lodge’s manager, says it’s the informal gatherings that resonate most with those staying there.

“It’s a small community in itself,” he says. “People appreciate that community feeling and the peer support that happens here as well as support from staff and volunteers. Everyone’s in the same boat, and the support they get from each other, they would never get at a hotel.”

READ MORE: Home away from home: Kelowna lodge provides accommodation to 1,300 cancer patients every year

Canadian Cancer Society. Canadian Cancer Society

Funds raised through the CCS gift guide will also go to Camp Goodtimes on Loon Lake in Maple Ridge, B.C., a summer camp for children and teens who are experiencing cancer and their families that fosters bonding — and plenty of fun.

Story continues below advertisement

Tristyn Ranger, from West Kelowna, B.C., went to Camp Goodtimes for two years while undergoing cancer treatment.

In his first summer there, Ranger couldn’t take part in activities such as water sports because he still had a central line in for his chemotherapy treatments. He made up for that his second summer, though, when he got in the water and tried field sports and archery.

“It was so great being around other families who had been through and were going through the same experience that my family and I had been through,” he says.

READ MORE: Cancer can severely damage your mental health. Why don’t we talk about it?

Fundraisers such as the gift guide are what keep support programs like the lodge and camp accessible to people facing cancer and their families, even during the pandemic. Lodge staff now don personal protective equipment to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, and the camp shifted to virtual activities instead of in-person stays last summer.​ While some activities, such as movie nights, shared meals and workshops at the lodge, have had to be cancelled for now, staff plan to bring them back as soon as it’s safe to do so.

“The fundraising lets us keep the fee for the clients as low as possible,” Jansen says. “Without fundraising, we couldn’t do that.”

Story continues below advertisement

Looking for a Christmas gift that will make a difference? Check out the Gifts for the Cure guide or call 250-762-6381.

The Canadian Cancer Society offers a range of support and services to Kelowna families facing cancer. Learn more about how CCS can help here.