Family Life


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Tales of 3 families fundraising for their children’s health

There’s no barrier to what we’ll do to help our children succeed. That
can mean anything from medical therapies to extra help reading. In
any case, parents are the best advocates, cheerleaders and fundraisers
for their kids, and there are lots of us out there soliciting money for
hockey teams, new school playgrounds and medical research.
According to Charitable Giving by Canadians, a report based on
results from the 2010 Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and
Participating, almost all charities and non-profi t organizations rely on
individual donations to fulfi ll their mission, and most people donate
to causes that are meaningful to them. Meet three Canadian families
whose child’s diagnosis prompted them to take up a cause.

Parents: Lisa Kadane and Blake Ford

Climbing Kili for a Cause

Total raised:
$7,595 for Renfrew Educational Services
that will go toward specialized services, equipment and
toys for children attending their son’s special needs school

English mountaineer George Mallory was once
asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest.
He famously replied, “Because it’s there.” My
answer to a similar question – “Why do you
want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?” – was much
more complex.

Ascending to the highest point in Africa was
certainly a bucket-list item for my husband and
me (we’re both travellers at heart), but when our
son Bennett was diagnosed with autism and a
genetic condition called 18q- (the culprit behind
his developmental delays), we suddenly had a
much more compelling reason to fl y half way
around the world to Tanzania.

We decided to raise money for his integrated
special needs preschool, Renfrew Educational
Services, where Bennett has made incredible
progress with his communication, fi ne motor,
gross motor, play and social skills. We wanted
to give back to an organization that has made
such a difference in our daily lives.

Jacquie McKechnie, manager of marketing
and communications for Renfrew, says the
school needs parental fundraising to deliver
specialized equipment, and even toys and
books. “Every little bit helps,” she says.

Still, more than once as I plodded upward
on that star-fi lled night and sucked the thin air
into my lungs, I asked myself, “Why am I doing
this again?” Climbing more than 4,000 feet in
six hours to reach Kili’s 19,340 foot summit at
sunrise seemed a Herculean effort at times, but
I would bring my focus back to Bennett and
remember it was for a good cause.

We reached the top at 6:15 a.m. on September
21, 2012, and proudly held up a Renfrew
banner in front of a spectacular view. We had
succeeded, physically and mentally, but more
importantly we surpassed our rather modest
fundraising goal ($5,895, or $1 for every metre of
the mountain), earning more than $7,500.

It was our first time fundraising on a large
scale and we were overwhelmed by people’s
generosity as friends, family, strangers and one
company donated money to benefit our son, his
school and other kids with special needs.

Parents: Heather and Ron Miller
Campaign: Telus Walk to Cure Diabetes
Total raised: $97,000 over four years
for the Juvenile Diabetes Research
Foundation (JDRF), whose goal is to
find a cure for Type 1 diabetes

The December after Beth Miller was
diagnosed with Type I diabetes her
mother asked her what she wanted
for Christmas. “She just looked at me
like I was insane,” recalls Heather.
“She said, ‘I just want Santa to bring
me a cure.’” Beth was six.

More than three years later Heather
is trying to deliver that miracle gift
to her daughter, now nine, through
her involvement with the Juvenile
Diabetes Research Foundation.

“It’s at the point where I feel that
there’s a lot of optimism in the fi eld,
so it’s exciting to be a part of it. It
gives me hope. It feels like a cure
could actually happen in her lifetime
and Beth totally deserves that,” says

For the past four years the family
has participated in the Telus Walk
to Cure Diabetes, recruiting other
families from their closeknit
neighbourhood to fundraise and
walk with them. They have raised
nearly $100,000 during that time.

“The first year there were two
families that came out and joined us
and this year we had 75 people on
our walk team. It was incredible,” she
says. In addition to the walk, Beth
and her two older brothers ask for
money for JDRF donations in lieu of
birthday gifts.

Beth skis competitively and is
healthy and as active as any other
Grade 4 student, except she still has
“down days” because of the chronic
disease; days when she’s tired of poking
her fi nger before and after gym
every day (to monitor her blood sugar
level), or bummed about being a little
bit slower than everyone else getting
stuff done. It’s those times that
Heather steels her resolve to keep

“It wears you down. You don’t ever
get a break from it. Those are the
days I feel more strongly about staying
involved and doing everything I

Parents: Karen and Dan Whitfield
Campaign: 46 Mommas Shave for the Brave
Total raised: $30,000 for Childhood Cancer Canada

Lance Whitfield was diagnosed with bone cancer of the lower jaw
when he was just 23 months old. For Karen and Dan Whitfi eld
and their four sons, life would never be the same. The long battle
began, with chemotherapy and radiation, followed by scans and
bloodwork every 12 weeks.

Lance’s story has a happy ending. Now five, he has been
for more than three years, but it exposes a sad reality.
About 1,500 new cases are diagnosed each year across the country,
according to Childhood Cancer Canada, so it’s hardly rare, but
there’s very little awareness about the disease and its many forms,
says Karen. After Lance’s recovery Karen and Dan turned their
attention to another fight: getting the word out about childhood
cancer and raising money for research.

“The more research we did, the more we realized how little
funding goes to childhood cancer research,” says Karen. “The only
thing that we have to be hopeful for is the research. We’re also trying
to push for better treatments that aren’t as hard on the kids.”

Karen signed on to be one of 46 Mommas (and one of
only three Canadian moms) who shaved their
heads in Los Angeles last July for a fundraiser
to benefi t Childhood Cancer Canada in partnership
with St. Baldrick’s, an American
foundation committed to funding childhood
cancer research. As for losing her
lovely head of shoulderlength
hair? “I
didn’t care at all,” says Karen. “We have a
choice. Kids with cancer don’t.”

In the end her hairrazing
brought in $30,000, the most of any participant.
She credits the small community in
Killarney, Man. with her fundraising success.
Many local businesses and friends, family
and community members donated because
they knew Lance and they knew his story.
“There was a personal connection there,”
says Karen. “My next goal is to try to reach
out farther.”

Lisa Kadane is a Calgary-based feature writer and mother of
two. Read more about her parenting and travel adventures at

a man carrying two children

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