Many hardships abound for people of Newfoundland and Labrador during the holiday season.
Those include families of sick children who will spend their holidays dealing with the trials and tribulations of cancer.
The Candlelighters Association of Newfoundland and Labrador has worked for the past 35 years to help take the pressure off those families as they strive to help with the emotional needs of the children and their families by providing services and support to curb the stress of childhood cancer.
Candlelighters sponsors five families each and if the donations line up accordingly, more families are assisted.
Lisa Blundell wears two hats for Candlelighters, serving as the family and events co-ordinator in addition to her role as camp director.
Blundell knows first-hand how important this is for children and their families, as she used to be one of them.
She spent a vast amount of time at the Janeway after being diagnosed with Hodgkins disease, and after all her treatments and the difficulties she persevered through, has been cancer-free for 14 years.
Her enthusiasm for the program was evident as she outlined what the event means to the children and their families. A Christmas party is hosted each year in the Janeway’s oncology department where everyone is treated to entertainment, ornament painting, cookie decorating, a magic show and live music. In addition, they are treated to an assortment of food, and the event is capped off with a visit from Santa, who presents each child with a gift.
The giving doesn’t stop there as the families, many of whom are trying to find their way through the holidays, are presented with financial support through the Candlelighters’ efforts.
“We provide the families with gift cards instead of a bunch of items they may or may not want,’’ Blundell said.
“They can go and get their own groceries, presents or whatever they need to prepare for Christmas and help bring normalcy to a situation that is anything but. That way, it can be like a normal Christmas for them.’’
She said the parents enjoy picking out gifts and items that are specific to their needs, and it gives them autonomy to spend on Christmas in a fashion that helps them.
And while Candlelighters is committed to five families, if someone is willing to pony up and add a sponsorship to a family, the organization will set it up for as many as those donations will provide.
“Every year things evolve, we add more programs and we rely on fundraising and sponsors to help provide programs like this one,’’ Blundell said.
“Our two main fundraisers for the year are the Ches’s Night of Delight, which is a dinner, dance and auction, and the National Inside Ride, which is a stationary bike challenge. In addition, we get specific sponsorships from people and businesses to help us with our support programs.’’
Blundell said people might not realize how much families in these situations go through and how much they miss out on during the time they are in hospital.
“As children are going through chemo, they quite often don’t feel well and, with the risk of infections, they miss parties and school functions,’’ she said.
“They are not able to be out and be active in public because of the extra health risks, and this helps to give them a sense of normalcy.’’
The Candlelighters Association of Newfoundland and Labrador is a volunteer charitable organization governed by a volunteer board of directors, dedicated to improving the quality of life for children with cancer and their families since 1982. Many of those board members are parents who have had children suffer from cancer and have been supported in the same fashion.
The primary aim is to be a support group whose goal is to provide the families of children diagnosed with cancer with information, emotional support and unique understanding.
In keeping with those goals, Candlelighters provides emotional and peer support for its families as the need is identified — at diagnosis, before surgery, during hospitalization, upon relapse, in times of crisis, as death approaches, during bereavement — as well as when a child finishes their program of treatment and continue to progress with a normal life.
People wishing to contact the Candlelighters Association of Newfoundland and Labrador can call 709-745-4448. The organization can also be reached on Messenger at m.me/CandlelightersNL, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
or online at http://www.candlelightersnl.ca.
Those wishing to make donations can do so at https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/id/30581/.
Candlelighters N.L. is a registered charity and can provide tax receipts for donations.