The following article was published in the Nanaimo Daily News a few weeks ago and concerns a family I met first at Healthy Beginnings, then at Starfish swimming lessons.
Family fights to save their baby from cancer
Mary Iatrides is in a fight for her life and she's only 14 months old.
Two months after her first birthday, parents Pete and Tanya took their little girl to the doctor because she hadn't recovered from a two-week cold the whole family had been fighting. That same day, Mary was flown to B.C. Children's Hospital in Vancouver and was diagnosed with acute myeloblastic leukemia.
Close friend Lia Holland has yet to come to terms with her friend's devastating news, but she knows support is the key right now and that is why she's turning to the community for financial help for the Iatrides.
Funds raised from a beer and burger night at the Old City Station Pub on
Aug. 20 and a huge garage sale, auction, hot dog sale and raffle slated for Country Club Centre's parking lot on Aug. 29 will be set up in a trust fund for the family to help cushion the financial stress. Pete and Tanya immediately moved to Vancouver and have been living in the Ronald McDonald House to be by their daughter's side since July 10. It will be their home for at least six months, while Mary fights for her life. Pete and Tanya stood strong beside Holland two years ago when she lost her mother to cancer.
"I knew right away I had to do something for them. I'm not ready to go to the hospital yet so I'm going to do as much as I can from here," said Holland. For information on the fundraising events or to make a donation, contact Holland at 250-741-4466.
© The Daily News (Nanaimo) 2009
It all began on Facebook - but what doesn't, these days? A mutual friend sent several moms the news about Mary, and told us there was a Facebook group set up to keep friends updated on her progress, share ideas about how to help, and most importantly organize some fundraising for the family. Within days, the membership of the group swelled into the hundreds (there are now over 400 members). The ideas came from all corners, and the leader of the group - Lia Holland, quoted in the article above - started working on putting together a gigantic fundraiser for Mary and her family.
Yesterday, I got to go help out at this fundraiser. I say “got to” because it was such an incredible experience that I really feel blessed to have been able to take part in it. I arrived at 8am to help set up, and there were about 25 people already there, unloading vehicles and getting things organized. It was already overwhelming. For the past few weeks, people had been donating hundreds (thousands?) of items to be sold at the garage sale, dropping them off at Lia's house. Lia and her team of organizers had originally thought that there would be time that morning to price everything, but it quickly became apparent that due to the sheer volume of goods, it would be impossible to do so. Instead, we moved as quickly as we could to organize items by category: baby clothes, toys, household goods, books, and so on. Though the sale was posted to start at 10am, before 9 we had people wanting to buy.
The next few hours were a flurry of activity. Lia and her team were On The Ball: everyone "working" the event had black t-shirts with a big picture of Mary and the slogan "It's All About Mary", which made it easy for customers to spot us and ask their questions or pay for goods. The picture of Mary was a huge bonus, as it gave the volunteers the ability to remind customers that they were giving to a good cause. Given that most items were not priced, this helped cut down on the haggling somewhat - though some people still snorted and walked away when I asked for a fair donation. (Oh well, karma will get them.) And for every stingy bargain-hunter, I encountered at least two people who completely understood that this sale was for a cause, and were willing to pay more than a fair price for the goods they took home.
On top of the garage sale, there was a Chinese auction with many generous prizes donated by local businesses. Again, I was impressed with Lia's marketing skills, as she put different photos of Mary on every gift bag for the auction. Most of the pictures were from the last six weeks, Mary's hospital stay, which really drove home the truth of what she and her parents are dealing with right now. There was also a hot dog sale (all food donated by, I believe, Save on Foods) and a Return-it truck where people could come and donate their bottles with proceeds going to the trust fund.
I was blown away by all of this. First, the people who knew Mary (and many who didn't) donating their goods to the garage sale and their time to hitting up businesses for prizes. The generosity of these businesses who gave so much to help this event succeed. The hundreds of customers who came and gave to our cause. One woman said to me, "God bless you for the help you're giving." I absolutely did feel blessed to be a part of this.
The final total for how much this event raised has not yet been made public, but I would estimate $15,000 - $20,000. **edit**: Lia emailed with the final total this morning: Just over $10,000. This will all go to the trust fund set up for Mary's family, to defray the costs of staying in Vancouver while Mary undergoes treatment.
Next up for fundraising is the raffle. First prize is a Gold and Pearl necklace and matching earrings from Parksville Jewelers, valued at over $499. Second prize is two nights' accomodation at the Parkside Victoria Resort, valued at over $499. Third prize is a Royal Princess Gala Birthday Party from Beaners Fun Cuts, valued at $196. Fourth prize is a portrait sitting by Heydemann Art of Photography, valued at $196. I think there are several other prizes as well that are not listed on the tickets.
I'm telling you all this because I want you to buy tickets from me. I have 60 tickets I'm hoping to sell ($2 each or $10 for 6). The draw date is September 20th and we are hoping to sell every single ticket by that time, which would raise another $5000 for this family. Most of you who read this blog know me in real life, but even if you don't, if you'd like to help this family, this is a great way to do so. I'm happy to send any of you my mailing address so you can send me a cheque, or if need be you can donate through Paypal (though Paypal takes 3% of the proceeds, so if we can avoid that I would like to).
I can't imagine how I would cope if something like this were to happen to Gwen. I'm so amazed to see the way people have come together to help Mary and her family, because the last thing a parent wants to think about in this situation is how they are going to pay the bills. If you feel moved to help this cause, drop me a line. Nothing would please me more than knowing that this little blog of mine was helpful in such a meaningful way.