by Rhonda Massad
More than $1.2 million in funds were distributed by West Island Community Shares (WICS) last Tuesday, April 21, at the Salle Pauline Julien, to 40 local charities serving the West Island two more than last year. WICS managed to maintain the level of funding to community groups they support which represents, on average, 12% of a community group’s operational budget.
Every community group was invited up on stage to receive their giant check with the amount of the contribution.
Twenty four Tristan Williams, a benefactor of Venturing Out Beyond Cancer (VOBOC), drew the audience to its feet with his energetic and emotional crowd pleasing activity called hands of hope where the audience clapped their hands to the beat of his drum. Williams is a two time cancer survivor, once at 12 and then at 21,as well as being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 19.
“I view a cancer diagnosis a being equivalent to being struck by lighting or being caught in the grasps of a deadly storm.” Williams said to a silent auditorium, “When I was diagnosed with cancer for the second time I hit rock bottom. I was defeated and heart broken. I had my whole life ahead of me, so why was this happening to me?”
“I felt abandoned and lost, I needed someone to save me.” he continued. “It was while I was lying in my hospital bed after surgery that I heard a knock a the door and was given a VOBOC back pack filled with items that made me feel like home, pjs, toothbrush and a stuffed Lion that represented courage. Little did i know that this back pack would change my life forever.”
According to Williams VOBOC came to him without having to ask. Up until then he had nobody to talk to about his cancer. For his family it was all new, they did not know what resources were available. When Williams reached out to VOBOC after returning home from the hospital they took him right under their wing.
“VOBOC gave me the guidance and support I needed, they connected me with support groups for young adults so I was able to meet other young adults in the community living with cancer. I was no longer a quiet voice that was not heard.” he explained. “Meeting other people who were going through the exact same thing empowered us and made us move forward. VOBOC gave me the access to the community that saved my life.”
Every 12 hours in Montreal an adolescent or young adult learns they have cancer. VOBOC is a community group that reaches out to those victims of cancer from 13 to 39 years old.
West Island Community Shares provides much needed funding to 40 West Island charity groups like VOBOC.