At just 11 months old, baby Willow underwent brain surgery to remove two cancerous tumours at BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.
That was March 24. A week later, Willow’s parents Katrina Nelson and Sky Clow, who are from Campbell River, and her family received devastating news: Willow’s cancer is advanced and progressing.
According to a website set up to support the family, the only option for Willow is to receive intensive chemotherapy at BC Children’s Hospital. Her family will have to move to Vancouver for six months while Willow undergoes treatment.
To help Willow and her family at such a difficult time, people in the community have been coming up with all kinds of ways to raise money so they don’t have to worry about finances and can focus on staying positive.
Last week, the Campbell River Storm donated $1,000 cash to Willow’s family.
Captain Gage Colpron, assistant captains Kobe Oishi amd Braeden Cyra and office manager Jami Harris presented the donation April 14 at Strathcona Toyota, where Harris is a product advisor.
The donation came out of the Storm’s regular-season 50/50 draws.
“It’s our mandate through our society that it’s donated back to the community so we were able to donate all our 50/50s back to the community to various causes,” said Harris, who looks after the hockey club’s society account.
This was the largest single donation the Storm has ever made to one cause.
“We knew the family was in need and it was one of those things, it’s a child,” said Harris. “At the end of the day, you support the youngest members of this community. It’s family.”
The Storm has also donated two season tickets and a signed hockey jersey as fundraisers.
After presenting the donation to Willow’s aunt, Krystal Henkel, and uncle, Marc Cavanagh-Houghton, Colpron placed a large red bow on a “bow-mobile” at the car dealership.
Strathcona Toyota is helping raise money for Willow’s family by giving anyone who comes by the dealership a chance to donate money and place a pink polka-dot bow on a “bow-mobile.”
Strathcona Toyota has also donated a website at wonderwillow.com, where people can read Willow’s story and find out how they can help.
And the dealership is getting ready to host a big fundraiser later this month. Strathcona Toyota will host a barbecue and car wash by donation April 30 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 2785 North Island Highway.
Strathcona Toyota has challenged other car dealerships in the community to join “Team Willow” and donate to Willow and her family.
“I swear everyone here thinking about her has helped,” said Henkel. “After her surgery, after day four or five, she was little Willow again. We really feel it. We’re overwhelmed with kindness.”
Willow celebrated her first birthday on April 12.
Henkel says this has been a very hard time for the family and she really admires her sister’s strength through it all.
“Katrina is definitely the strongest woman I’ll ever know in my entire life, for sure,” she said. “That’s her world. She’s been keeping very strong. It’s very hard because she’s just a baby. She has a lot of support. Our friends have come down a lot and visited and she just feels all the support from back home too; we all do. It’s huge. Having this community is so different. If we were living in Vancouver at the time, growing up there, we would probably not nearly have this much support.
“We’re just keeping really strong and positive for Willow — it’s all you can do. That’s half the battle.”
Fundraisers continue to take place and to be planned. A bottle drive over the weekend raised $542.65 and during the 2016 Slo Pitch Ice Breaker Tournament over the weekend, For love of the game played as Team Willow and, along with the executive, raised $1,560 for Willow and her family.
A bank account has now been set up for Willow’s family. You can donate at any TD Canada Trust to account 6025786.
E-transfers can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org for deposit into the donation account.
Cheques can be made out to Tarryn Callaghan or Allison Graham and mailed to: 175 Dogwood South, Campbell River, B.C., V9W 2X5.
A GoFundMe page has also been set up for online donations at gofundme.com/4gvvz684.
Grey ribbons and donation jars are being set up around the community.
Upcoming fundraisers in May include a hot dog sale at Save-On-Foods on May 15 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and a Fun Fair at Thunderbird Hall on May 29.
Many individuals and businesses are contributing as well.
The list of ways to help continues to grow all the time. Look for the Team Willow Facebook Group to find more fundraisers.
People who come into Strathcona Toyota can make a donation to Team Willow and put a bow on the bow-mobile at the dealership.
Lindasy Chung/Campbell River Mirror