Group’s aim: To help sick children

Friends of Children supports families who have to travel out of town for a medical appointment

Little Baby Q was born at about 28 weeks, weighing one pound and 14 ounces.

Mom and Dad lived in the East Kootenay, but Baby Q needed the support at Calgary’s neonatal intensive care unit at Foothills Hospital.

For the next three months, Baby Q stayed at Foothills. During that time, her mom stayed at Ronald McDonald House, while Dad travelled back and forth from Calgary to the East Kootenay to continue working.

When Baby Q was finally able to come home, she still weighed only four pounds three ounces. She will continue to need visits to Calgary until she turns five.

The new East Kootenay organization Friends of Children supported Baby Q and her parents during those long months of worry, stress, displacement and separation.

Friends of Children, which opened its East Kootenay office in Cranbrook in October 2012, supports families whose children need medical care out of town by covering the cost of accommodation, gas, and parking. It helps with medical issues including cancer treatment, premature birth and severe injuries.

“The cost of it is the biggest one, and then where do you stay,” said coordinator Pat Chisholm. “Often moms are left and dads have to go back and continue on, or you have these families where it’s a third baby and somebody has to keep looking after the other children and working.

“It gets very complicated for families, both cost wise but also socially and emotionally.”

So far this year, Friends of Children has approved 123 family requests for assistance with expenditures, reaching $25,045.

The majority of sick kids in the East Kootenay are sent to Calgary for treatment. In 2011 and 2012, East Kootenay children attended 1,334 medical appointments in Alberta. About 114 of those visits were for hospital admission. By contrast, 14 children from the region were admitted to B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver during that time.

The average cost of a family’s trip to Calgary for a one-day medical appointment is $335, including gas, parking and motel.

Friends of Children began as a non-profit serving the Prince George area. But in 2009, Cranbrook resident Gail Brown approached the organization about offering its services in the East Kootenay.

“Gail talked to them about developing a satellite service for the East Kootenay that would be in line with what they did because she felt what they did was so important and would benefit the children in our region because there are very similar needs,” said Chisholm.

The East Kootenay branch has been serving local families since 2009, but just last year opened an office in Cranbrook’s Kootenay Child Development Centre and brought Chisholm on staff to manage the family support.

While the office is in Cranbrook, Friends of Children serves the entire region.

“We have children on our caseload from Elkford, Sparwood, Creston, the east side of Kootenay Lake, all the way to Golden,” said Chisholm.

She deals one-on-one with families, forwarding their needs to a dispersal committee that allots the funding. Before the trip, Chisholm will arrange accommodation for the family at their destination.

“We book them ourselves because then families don’t have to worry about that,” said Chisholm. “Not having to phone a motel, not having to figure out where the best rate is today… those are some tangible things that take the load off families.”

Friends of Children will also reimburse for gas. For anything the organization can’t help with, Chisholm can refer the family to another organization.

“Once people start knowing where to go and what to do, that starts to immediately decrease some of those anxieties,” she said.

Friends of Children cannot help with ongoing therapies and intervention services, flights or dental appointments. They cover costs related to appointments anywhere outside the region, be it Calgary, Vancouver, Kelowna or elsewhere.

“For the most part, anything that people ask for we do try to accommodate that or find alternate ways to fund that if we can’t,” said Chisholm.

Most of Friends of Children’s expenses depend upon donations from the public. Costs for one family alone can get up to $10,000.

To make a contribution to Friends of Children, visit www.friendsofchildren.ca, or send a cheque payable to Friends of Children (EK) to #208 16-12th Avenue North, Cranbrook, V1C 3V7.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cranbrook Fire and Emergency Services was responding to a fire at the corner of 2nd St. N & Victoria Avenue Wednesday morning. Trevor Crawley photo
Fire at the corner of Victoria Avenue

Motorists, residents advised to avoid corner of 2nd Street North and Victoria Avenue.

A sign indicating a COVID-19 testing site is displayed inside a parking garage in West Nyack, N.Y., Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. The site was only open to students and staff of Rockland County schools in an effort to test enough people to keep the schools open for in-person learning. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
4 more deaths, 54 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

This brings the total to 66 deaths in the region

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor

Proposed homeless shelter; In response to Keystone cancellation; Progressives

Moir Park in Cranbrook. Photo courtesy Google.
Local organizations partnering for trail project around Moir Park

A partnership of local organizations is hoping to build a community trail… Continue reading

Castlegar Sculpturewalk 2020 – 10 Year Anniversary Sand Sculpture. (Submitted/CBT)
CBT arts and culture grant program now accepting applications

Apply through the Kootenay Columbia Cultural Alliance

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which cause COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML
B.C. ramping up screening for faster-spreading COVID-19 ‘variants of concern’

B.C. has sequenced about 11,000 COVID-positive samples since last February

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

Interior Health reported two more COVID-19 deaths at Sunnybank Retirement Center in Oliver Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. (File photo)
COVID-19 claims lives of two more South Okanagan care home residents

Five residents of the Oliver care home have died since the outbreak was first declared

Keygan Power with brother Quintin and mom Allison while camping the weekend before Keygan’s brain hemorrhage on Aug. 2, 2020. (Photo Allison Power)
B.C. teen ‘locked inside,’ battling to regain speech after severe brain bleed

16-year-old suffers traumatic loss of function, still plays a mean game of chess

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Most Read