We’ve all had our lives touched by cancer in some way. We spoke with Shonalie Biafore, Founder and President of Believe in the Gold to learn more about how we can help support families with children suffering from cancer.
Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences.
Believe in the Gold is a registered, Calgary-based charity that works to alleviate the unfortunate reality of childhood cancer in Canada. Believe in the Gold’s objectives are to provide support to families of children suffering with childhood cancer, assist appropriate childhood cancer research initiatives and build awareness childhood cancer.
What problem does it aim to solve?
At the age 16 when my daughter Jacey Uphill was fighting the battle of her life against Ewings Sarcoma, she identified this large void in our medical system. She saw families struggling to make ends meet, to pay for medication, staying in hospital for longer lengths of time than they needed to because they could not afford the required medications to go home. She watched our family pay hundreds of dollars out of pocket for her treatment, even though we had two private health care plans.
Jacey also realized that her treatment was actually one that had been around for many years and had not improved and over the years. She started looking at how little money was going to childhood research in order to fund new innovative treatments. It just wasn’t happening. She was shocked and she realized that CHANGE needed to happen. Real change. And that would take ACTION. She started a plan that resulted in Believe in the Gold.
When did you start/join it?
As Jacey became more ill, she asked me and a family friend if we would carry out her plan for “BELIEVE” if anything should happen to her.
What made you want to get involved?
It was important to carry on Jacey’s legacy and help other families like ours who would face this diagnosis in the future.
What was the situation like when you started?
Awareness of Childhood Cancer was low. The gold ribbon was barely recognized in Canada. September was not yet recognized as Childhood Cancer Awareness month. Only 2-3% of cancer research funding was going to childhood cancer research and there was little funding to support families with the costs associated with treatment.
How has it changed since?
Now September has been recognized in Canada as Childhood Cancer awareness month. The mayors of Calgary and Regina (both cities where we host events and help families) have issued proclamations that recognize September as Childhood cancer Awareness Month in their cities.
More funding is going to Childhood Cancer. Funding such as that provided by Believe in its early years was able to generate more interest in Childhood Cancer amongst researchers. And, as more researchers focus on Childhood Cancer, more advancements are being made which, in turn, interest more donors and then attract more funding dollars.
Other charities have started to support families (not just pediatric families, but patients of all ages with cancer) because the financial struggle is a burden that is more significant than most people imagine.
The federal government also developed a caretaker EI program to support families caring for a sick child or person who is sick. This program is new and was not available when Jacey was sick.
What more needs to be done?
As long as children keep getting cancer our work will not be done. Families still struggle to pay for medical needs that are not covered by any provincial health plan- parking, mileage, needles for medications, ‘freeze cream’ so those same needles don’t hurt as much, just to name a few. The costs grow quickly and often a parent has to quit their job or take a leave of absence to care for the physical and emotional needs of their child’s treatment. The diagnosis doesn’t just affect the individual child but takes a physical and emotional toll on the entire family.
How can our readers help?
There are many ways to help. Get involved – follow and share our pages on social media! Volunteer! Donate through our website!
Watch for announcements of upcoming events. Consider hosting your own third party event.
Do you have any events coming up?
Attend our Virtual Touch of Gold Gala in March
Donate bottles through our account with Skip the Depot
Where can we follow you?
Facebook: Believe in the Gold
Linkedin: Believe in the Gold
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?
Elizabeth House through Catholic Charities