Local family supports Candlelighters of Ottawa in memory of son Bryce
Editor’s note: Parenting Times is proud to present an occasional series, Families with a Cause. The local families our writers have interviewed have been propelled for a desire, for one reason or another, to tackle a social or health issue. If you know a family whose altruistic endeavors are making Ottawa a better place, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
When Dev Jude’s son, Bryce, was diagnosed with a rare type of leukemia in 2009, her friends and family rallied around them.
That included organizing fundraisers for the Stittsville family when Bryce’s condition worsened and he had to be transferred to The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.
Not that Jude, who had to quit her job to be there for Bryce full-time, was ever comfortable with the idea of accepting the money.
“We had a lot of support from friends, because we went from two parents earning good salaries to both of us eventually living in Toronto at the end of it for six months at Sick Kids. We had a lot of help that we never really wanted to have, but we needed it,” she explained. “Our friends, initially, with our blessing, finally went and did some fundraising for us under the name Refuse2Lose – Team Bryce.”
Jude and her family accepted the help on one condition.
“My only requirement was that, when we were through all this, that we would pay it forward, because I had a hard time accepting help, to be honest,” Jude said.
For Jude, the driving force behind her family’s tireless work for Candlelighters of Ottawa was the desire to show others the same kindness they saw during Bryce’s three-year battle with leukemia.
“Our friends did amazing fundraising activities for us, and that enabled us to have the whole family (in Toronto) eventually and kind of help Bryce through that and enabled us to basically not lose our house,” she explained. “I just didn’t feel comfortable to take that and not pay it forward.
“We were hoping to pay it forward with Bryce… unfortunately we weren’t able to do that. But I know how much we benefited from some of those programs from Candlelighters, so that was our decision to choose that charity.”
Candlelighters is an organization that provides programs and services for families with children who have cancer, throughout their childhood cancer journey. According to executive director Jocelyn Lamont, Candlelighters of Ottawa currently has a membership database comprised of 356 families, which include those who are in treatment, off-treatment survivors, five years-plus off treatment and bereaved families. Its program portfolio consists of programs for all members of the family along that journey, including family support, financial support, educational support and some new survivor programs.
After Bryce passed away in 2012, Jude sat down with Lamont to see what they could do.
Bryce was a huge hockey fan, and one of things his family really benefited from was the Candlelighters’ Suite Seats program. The suite at Canadian Tire Centre provides a safe place for kids whose immune systems are compromised by cancer treatments to attend events outside of the hospital.
“(Lamont) indicated at the time that Suite Seats might be in jeopardy a little bit, because to some people it might be considered a little bit frivolous,” Jude explained. “But for us, it was huge, because it took us out of being that cancer family, and he got to see a hockey game, or for older kids they get to see a concert… they’re the kind of extras that you don’t get to enjoy when you’re going through that kind of journey.”
Refuse2Lose fundraises in order to help keep that suite going.
“We bring families to hockey games and concerts and Disney on Ice and all those kinds of things,” says Lamont. “We have a suite up in the gallery level. It’s kind of, for a lack of a better word, an exclusive area, so we’re not putting kids who sometimes have decreased immunities right out there in the general population. We can scoot them into Gate 1 or Gate 2, up the elevator (and) get them into a less populated area.
“And in our suite, it’s with like-minded families, families who need to get away from the hospital, need to get away from that day-to-day grind of parenting a kid with cancer. It’s a chance for the siblings to come, whole families to get together and into that suite. It’s a fun-filled evening, a much-needed reprieve from the new life, the new normal.”
Lamont has known Jude for a long time – from the time Bryce was diagnosed and through his illness, she says. “It’s very meaningful as an organization to have a family who has benefited from a program to fundraise and give back… I think it sends a message to newer families when they know that someone who has benefited from the program and who has walked a similar path to theirs is helping to provide that opportunity for them,” she added.
“It’s a family of families with Candlelighters. It’s a small community. People don’t know who we are a lot of the time until they find themselves with a child with a cancer diagnosis and so it’s a close-knit group,” she says. “It supports the closeness and the understanding and recognition when you have families who do things like the Judes do.”
Refuse2Lose also participates in three main fundraisers throughout the year: they generate thousands of dollars selling items and baked goods at the Glebe Garage Sale; host a memorial golf tournament at the Canadian Golf and Country Club; and take part in the Nokia Inside Ride, which aims to raise $1 million for Candlelighters.
Jude’s sons, Mason, 11, and Colby, 8, help out with all three, but they particularly love tandem biking at the Nokia event.
“I really want the kids to be involved in that and they love to do it,” Dev said. “And it’s a way to honour their brother, too.”
Although Bryce is gone, his family’s efforts ensure his legacy will live on for a long, long time.
“It definitely feels amazing … it’s a way to kind of keep his memory alive and I think that’s important,” Jude said. “We’ve got a couple of framed photos of him on the wall enjoying the hockey game, so, again, it’s super bittersweet, but as the years go by, because it’s been a number of years, you try and remember the good memories.”
For more information about the Jude family’s fundraising activities, visit refuse2lose.ca.