Life can sometimes change instantly. An accident or diagnosis of a serious illness can strain not only a family’s emotional capacity, but also its finances with the extra costs that come along with getting treatment. It’s for those families who Cait Holmes started one of Powell River’s newest nonprofit organizations, River Kids.
“River Kids was officially registered in June, and we’ve got a small board of directors that’s getting things started,” says Cait. “Our purpose will be to support families in the qathet region who have a child going through treatment for a life-threatening or critical illness or injury with any extra expenses that occur. There are lots of gaps in the financial assistance that is available when it comes to this kind of thing, and we want to fill one of those for this area.”
While medical care is publicly funded in Canada, there are additional expenses that are not, and it is for these expenses that River Kids will provide support. Financial assistance can be available through various organizations, but there is often an income test in place to receive that funding. For example, says Cait, families will sometimes be asked to liquidate assets like RRSPs and property before funding becomes available.
“I know of one family on the island where the dad was the main income earner, and one of their three children was diagnosed with leukemia,” she says. “The mom had to travel with the child to her treatments. Other organizations wanted the family to sell their home and uproot their entire family before they would provide any financial help. Luckily, there was another organization, Cameryn’s Cause, that was there and provided enough support that they didn’t have to do that.”
Cait volunteered with Cameryn’s Cause in Campbell River before moving to Powell River. She has been drawing on her experience and is networking with their board and also with Comox Valley’s You Are Not Alone to help get River Kids started.
“Working with Cameryn’s Cause was some of the most meaningful work I’ve ever done in my life; it lit my heart on fire, gave me goosebumps, and made me cry over and over,” says Cait. “When I moved to Powell River and saw that there was no similar organization here, it planted a seed in my head. We’re already seeing a lot of GoFundMe campaigns to help support local families when their child is sick. River Kids will help in the same way, but without the need to campaign on your own.”
River Kids is still in the early stages, and what’s needed most right now are volunteers and funding.
“We’d love to get another couple of board members, as well as connect with people who have fundraising experience, or someone with a health care background to help us when it comes time to look at applications,” explains Cait. “Our big focus right now is on building our pool of funds. While we’re not a registered charity, donations can be claimed on income tax as an advertising expense, and donors’ names will be highlighted on our website and Facebook page.”
Families know best where they need financial support – for example, child or pet care, or gas and accommodation while travelling for treatment – and River Kids will provide them directly with funds to help their most critical needs, says Cait.
“While we might not be able to cover the costs of everything, we’ll at least be able to make it less financially stressful in a time when a family is in crisis,” she adds. “We want families here in Powell River to know there’s someone in their corner and they can count on us to help them out.”To find out more about volunteering for, donating to, or accessing funding through River Kids, go to riverkids.ca, or contact Cait at 604.344.0741.