Shoppers Tree of Life conquers cancer fundraiser goal

For more than 10 years Ponoka and area residents have been able to access a special program to help them with their cancer treatment

For more than 10 years Ponoka and area residents have been able to access a special program to help them with their cancer treatment and now staff at Shoppers Drug Mart have been able to add to the fund.

They raised $4,424 for the Ponoka Breast Cancer Fund at Family and Community Support Services (FCSS). The four-week Tree of Life campaign is an annual fundraiser in support of women’s health.

Employees raised money by seeking donations using four different levels: a leaf was $1, a butterfly was $5, an acorn was $10 and a cardinal was $50. Staff did not stop there though; they hosted a weekend bake sale, a barbecue and a silent auction. Heading the campaign was Jennifer Wigston, who said most of the staff are women and they wanted to get involved right away. Their initial goal was to raise $1,050 but after beating it in the first week, staff became excited about their potential and Wigston raised the bar to $4,000. “It was the most we’ve every raised at this store…Everybody was organized and we were pushing for it.”

Staff want to raise funds to the same program again next year and Wigston is already thinking of new fundraising ideas.

The money will go to support women who need assistance paying for costs associated with cancer treatments, explained Shannon Boyce-Campbell, executive director of Ponoka FCSS.

She praised the initiative of associate owner Peter Lok and his staff for deciding on FCSS as the program they wanted to donate to and hopes to work with organizers next year to come up with other fundraising ideas. “It was totally led by them. It’s pretty forward thinking of them to take the bull by the horns and we appreciate it.”

A minimum of $500 to start goes to assist a person with their transportation and other unplanned for expenses.

“Small rural communities find their own solutions and this is just another example to me. In larger centre these options don’t exist and that compassion sometimes isn’t there,” said Boyce-Campbell.

She knows of many women who have been able to access the program, which started August, 2000.

“The real truth is travel associated when you are sick and the expenses of being sick are astronomical.”

FCSS also has volunteer drivers to help those with travel if needed. To apply a person must provide either a letter from their doctor or a treatment plan of their needs.

FCSS survey update

A community needs survey conducted over the summer by FCSS missed some specific areas; one was youths and the other was newcomers. Organizers of the survey decided to use SurveyMonkey to reach teenagers aged 13 to 18 and out of a potential 800 youths at these schools: Ponoka Composite High School, Crestomere School, Mecca Glen School, Ponoka Outreach, St. Augustine Catholic School and Ponoka Christian School, 166 participated.

“We were pretty excited,” said Boyce-Campbell.

The results of the survey came last week and quantifying the data will take some time but Boyce-Campbell feels there is much to learn from the survey at first glance.

This survey had 25 questions and was geared to teenagers to see how many are working and what they do in their free time. It was also used to find out what they want to see changed in Ponoka.

She feels the information from the youth survey is an asset to determining where community needs are and where there are gaps. She intends to also find out what is in place that is not promoted. Questions were open-ended and involvement from youths is inspiring to her.

“I love the energy of the kids and they have such a positive outlook. They feel they can bring about change and that’s exciting to me,” stated Boyce-Campbell.

She believes people might expect more of a negative response from teens but initial findings of this survey do not show that. One person surveyed did not have enough room to offer their suggestions so they offered their contact information and FCSS was able to get another two pages of information from this teenager.

An incentive prize of a $250 gift card for one winner and four $25 gift cards were used to generate interest and working with Ponoka schools and Facebook was an asset to FCSS being able to get more information, explained Boyce-Campbell.