Karlee Durfey, a University of Lethbridge kinesiology student and Pronghorns’ rugby player, says her family’s world was turned upside down last December when her two-year-old niece, Bo Smith, was diagnosed with Stage 4 sarcoma, a rare form of cancer which had spread to her lungs and liver.
“It was super tough,” Durfey explained.
“Bo wasn’t feeling well. She had a spot on her stomach… she would kind of complain when we picked her up that it would hurt, and so she went through a bunch of emergency visits.”
Bo then fought her cancer battle at the Alberta Children’s Hospital.
A GoFundMe page was created by Durfey, and support rolled in from friends and family to help Bo’s family pay for trips to Calgary and hotel stays as they lost work hours.
“They did have a room at the Ronald McDonald House, and sometimes she’d stay at the hospital,” Durfey said. “But once COVID(-19) hit, it was even harder because sometimes they couldn’t offer her a stay at the hospital or they couldn’t go to the Ronald McDonald House unless they wanted to stay for a long time, which wasn’t quite possible with my sister having two other kids to tend to at home.
“So that made it even harder.”
During her fight, Bo lost a kidney. But one year later, she’s a healthy three-year-old and her cancer is in remission after undergoing radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
“We spent quite a few days at the hospital and honestly, it gets boring, so we were looking for things to do,” Durfey said.
“So my mom took us to a sewing store, and we started embroidering. The first thing I ever embroidered was a rainbow — Bo loves rainbows, they kind of signify the light after the rain, after a hard thing.”
When the stormy clouds in their lives started to part, Durfey said her sister, Bo’s mom, had an idea.
“I was still embroidering, and she said we should embroider clothes and sell them — not necessarily to make a profit, but to give to families that needed help when their kids are sick, just like the support our family got,” Durfey said.
“She spent a lot of time in the hospital and saw a lot of families and a lot of kids going through the same thing who could really use some help.”
In their quest to pay it forward, the sisters created a non-profit called Bo Smith & Co. in May.
“We started embroidering,” Durfey said. “We didn’t really want to sell clothes to make money, so we thought we could give it back in a way we thought was important — so that’s what we did.
“(We) can’t quite keep up with the demand in sales, so it’s been awesome.”
Durfey said 100 per cent of profits from the embroidered clothing goes towards families with children battling cancer.
The family has already raised over $20,000 through the non-profit and has financially assisted 12 families with a child fighting cancer. They’ve also donated to a couple of different fundraisers all in support of childhood cancer.
Bo has been serving as the organization’s star model.