Creston Town Council got an update on November 22 about the services provided by Friends of Children, a group devoted to supporting the families of children whose medical needs send them away from home.
“As you can see, a large number of the families we support are from Creston and the surrounding communities,” spokesperson Gail Brown said. “And the need continues to grow.”
Friends of Children applied for, and was not successful, for a Community Initiatives Program grant from the Town of Creston two years ago, when it appeared to Council that the organization did not support local families. That changed last year after Brown spoke at a Council meeting to explain how the program works. Supporting her case were grandparents of a child who’s severe medical needs required lengthy treatment in Calgary. They said the financial support’s value was immeasurable to the child’s parents.
“100 per cent of donated funds go to assisting families with children who have to travel due to medical need,” Brown said, adding that the low costs of operating the program are entirely covered by a BC Gaming grant. “We support families with children up to 18 years of age who have medical conditions or emergencies that require emergency or long term medical care. Families throughout the East Kootenay Health Region Qualify.”
Brown said expenses vary, but can include gas costs, accommodation and meals. Friends of Children also provides advice to guide families who might not be aware of what services are available to them.
“We connect them with Ronald McDonald House, for instance,” she said.
To date in 2016, Brown said of the 188 family requests that have been met, 61, or nearly a third, of them have come from Creston and area.
And the demand has grown steadily. In 2013, 180 families received $34,000 in financial aid and in 2014, 191 families received more than $38,000. Last hear requests came from 198 families and the financial support grew to $43,500.
Travel and accommodations to Alberta are the predominant expenses.
“We appreciate your coming and providing this information,” Mayor Ron Toyota said. “We will definitely be well informed when we make decisions on CIP grants next year.