Youth helping youth

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LaSalle College students help teens and young adults with cancer

Alanna Parasuco and some fellow students from the LaSalle College Event Planning Program are lending a helping hand to VOBOC, a charity that has been supporting adolescents and young adults with cancer for over 14 years. The team of five students is gaining a tremendous amount of hands-on experience organizing VOBOC’s annual fundraiser the Treasure Hunt for Life taking place on May 23.

“Because of cancer many Montreal teenagers and young adults are travelling down a dark road,” says Ms. Parasuco. “Personally, I’ve watched the disease derail the lives of a few close friends and family members. VOBOC helps make the cancer journey a little easier on young patients by breaking their isolation and giving them the tools, knowledge and support they need throughout their journey. This is why my classmates and I decided to get involved.”

VOBOC relies heavily on the Treasure Hunt for Life to finance its free services including its special and last requests and its Vo-Paks, backpacks delivered to seven Montreal area oncology departments and distributed by health care professionals to cancer patients on their first day of treatment. Each Vo-Pak contains a comfort kit, venturing out kit and Friends of Lara information kit with medical information, resource tools and navigation tools.

Each year in Quebec, close to 1500 teenagers and young adults are diagnosed with cancer. This age group has seen fewer improvements in five-year survival rates than children and older adults with cancer. Research also indicates this population is underserved on many levels, including clinical treatment, psychosocial support and care, and survivorship.

“Unfortunately, VOBOC can’t change the final outcome for many of the young patients we meet, but there was a definite joy and comfort in knowing that by providing free tools, resources and free diversions we are helping these patients from the moment they are diagnosed until the end of their cancer journey,” says Doreen Edward, VOBOC founder and a two time cancer survivor. “We work closely with the medical teams of seven McGill University affiliated teaching hospitals to help empower these young patients from day one.”

The Treasure Hunt for Life is a fun-filled half-day event where teams of four complete a course filled with crazy challenges, styled somewhat like the Amazing Race. To take part, each team pledges to raise $500 for VOBOC. The event is topped off by a free lunch and lots of door prizes.

Ms. Parasuco and her classmates and are lining up sponsors, prizes and a caterer. They are also getting family, friends and students from LaSalle College and John Abbott College to register teams for the fundraiser. “Helping VOBOC is really important to me because I am a teenager, I can only imagine how terrifying it must be to be diagnosed with such a scary disease at a time when you should have your whole life ahead of you,” says Ms. Parasuco. “Many patients feel lost, scared and alone and they greatly appreciate the help and care they receive from VOBOC.”

Ms. Parasuco also says organizing VOBOC’s Treasure Hunt for Life has been a great learning experience. She’s gained invaluable knowledge and a whole new appreciation for the amount of time, energy and effort that goes into organizing a fundraiser.

Recently, the organizers met with Treasure Hunt for Life spokesperson Laura Loebenberg. Laura was diagnosed with brain cancer when she was 15. Today, the 20 year old is still battling the disease. She’s had four surgeries and countless rounds of chemotherapy. Despite everything she has endured she has agreed to lend her name and story to the cause. She wants to create a “chain of kindness” raising funds to support VOBOC and by extension other teens and young adults with cancer like her.

“Meeting Laura has made this experience much more important to me,” says Ms. Parasuco. “Listening to her story and how much cancer has affected her life and hearing how much VOBOC has helped her throughout her journey is simply incredible. It underscores how important it is for us to support VOBOC so as to help as many teens and young adults as we possibly can.”

If you’d like to register for the Treasure Hunt for Life, help sponsor the event or donate a door prize please go to VOBOC.org to learn more. You can also donate to support Laura’s Team Courage for Life. You can support Laura at http://bit.ly/courageforlife

The Treasure Hunt for Life will be held May 23 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the campus graciously provided by John Abbott College, 21275 Chemin Lakeshore Road, Stewart Hall Building, Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec. H9X 3L9

Written by Alanna Parasuco

Photo caption: (centre and seated front row) Laura Loebenberg, Treasure Hunt for Life spokesperson, Alanna Parasuco, (standing left to right)Jenna Peace, Amanda Di Tommaso, Trang Nguyen, Nikole Pidlisny, Alisson Weiss, VOBOC Programs and Administrative Associate and Joanne Goudreau, VOBOC Executive Director.

Donate now to Team Courage for Life