LOOKING AT THE IMPACT OF QUALICO'S 2019 DONATION THAT HELPED MAKE THE DREAM OF PAPA KEN’S HOUSE A REALITY
Edmonton, AB – When a family learns that their child has cancer, it can be an extremely stressful and isolating experience. It can also lead to financial strain, particularly for families who live outside of large cities and travel to seek treatment for their child.
Papa Ken’s House in Edmonton, run by Kids with Cancer Society Edmonton, serves a vital purpose for these rural families who travel and stay in the city while their child receives treatment. The five-bedroom house first opened in September 2018, thanks to generous donations from Qualico and other donors such as the Dave Lede Foundation and the Ken Webb Foundation.
The grand opening ribbon cutting at the front steps of Papa Ken's House included Shane Erickson, Regional Vice-President, Northern Alberta
(pictured third from the left)
Papa Ken’s House provides a comfortable and cost-effective alternative to hotels, and offers much more than just accommodation, as noted by Val Figliuzzi, Executive Director, Kids with Cancer Society Edmonton.
“It’s almost like a bed-and-breakfast,” she said. “But here, families are able to sit together and share and gain support from one another. Besides providing accommodation, the house has also sort of acted as a little support group for families who have to travel outside of their own community to get treatment.”
Kids with Cancer Society Edmonton tries to provide as much comfort and support as possible to the families staying at Papa Ken’s House, whether it’s scraping car windows in the winter or having lunch prepared to make things a bit easier.
Since it first opened, Papa Ken’s House has provided more than 400 nights of accommodation for families, and just recently marked two straight days where the house was at full capacity. Val said the goal originally was to start off slow, filling only half of the rooms at first, so any needed adjustments could be made along the way. While being able to help so many families is the goal, it is also bittersweet when the house is full.
A street-side view of Papa Ken's House
“In many ways, we want it to be empty because of what it represents,” Val explained. “If it’s not empty, that means there are children in need. But we are delighted that we’re able to provide support to those families.”
So far, Kids with Cancer Society Edmonton has made only minor modifications to Papa Ken’s House, based mostly on feedback from families served. For example, one modification has been to include a roll-away cot in each room, in case families with more than four members are staying at the house.
Because families are at Papa Ken’s House from one to three days or more, depending on the length of treatment, as much work as possible was done when initially designing and constructing the home to ensure that Kids with Cancer Society Edmonton got everything as spot-on as they could.
“A lot of planning went into the house, because we knew we only had one chance to get it right, in a sense,” said Val. “Our membership, the parents, have a lot of say in what we do. So, we went to the family advisory council with the plan. Our question to them was, as a family with a child going through treatment, what is important to you?”
Some of the things that were taken into consideration included private washrooms to help with infection control, a large cooking area that families could spend plenty of time in, and a quiet room to provide a bit of escape.
Now that Papa Ken’s House is officially up and running, Val said there are some plans in the works to make the home an even better experience for families in the future.
“We were very fortunate that when we were renovating the home, the property next door became available,” said Val. “We strategically purchased that property, and we are either going to develop it into a beautiful play area for the children, or depending on what happens over the next few years, there could be an extension on Papa Ken’s House.”
Other opportunities for improvement and growth at Papa Ken’s House include continuing to upgrade furnishings so that families are more comfortable, as well as possibly holding mini retreats on weekends for families who live out of town.
Kids with Cancer Society Edmonton is truly grateful to donors like Qualico for helping the organization provide support and comfort for families, Val said. Since Shane Erickson, Regional Vice-President, Northern Alberta, first became a board member after attending a fundraising gala, Qualico has continued to be involved in raising funds and providing expertise and guidance for the organization.
Initiatives like holding a golf tournament and participating in the Inside Ride National Tour, a cross-Canada cycling fundraiser, have allowed Qualico to continue to help fund Kids with Cancer Society Edmonton projects. Brad Armstrong, Vice-President, Qualico Communities Edmonton, has now taken on Qualico’s role on the non-profit’s board.
“The support from Qualico has gone beyond building an accommodation project for us,” said Val. “It’s gone further to help families realize the community supports them. I really think that Qualico has made a connection with the children and they’ve opened their hearts to them. It’s wonderful to have such a committed donor who walks the journey with us.”
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