Crystal Leese and Ruth Callender of the NOCLS stand next to Dawson Buburuz in the newly renovated bathroom the organization funded through its 2018 Living Flag fundraiser. Photo: Brendan Shykora - Morning Star Staff

Families receive support from ‘Living Flag’ fundraisers

A young man and a boy who both live with limited mobility were supported by the Canada Day events

The past two Canada Days in Vernon were marked by generosity on the part of local residents and businesses. Now, the fruits of that generosity have arrived.

On Thursday the North Okanagan Community Life Society (NOCLS) unveiled a renovated bathroom for a Vernon man living with cerebral palsy. They also presented a cheque to a Spallumcheen family to help pay for medical equipment for their son, who lives with limited mobility.

Dawson Barburuz, 20, was in need of a bathroom that he could access with his wheelchair. Thanks to the NOCLS’s 2018 Canada Living Flag fundraiser he now has the space to wheel into a walk-in shower.

“The family had applied for a home adaptations grant and they were denied,” said Crystal Leese, a resource coordinator with the NOCLS. “So then we put together the Canada Day living Flag fundraiser in 2018.”

Last Canada Day was the organization’s first time doing the fundraiser, and they raised more than $4,000 profit from individuals.

“It really brought everybody together for a good cause,” said Leese. “We look forward to doing it each year with a different family and seeing how we can help more people.”

Dawson and his family extended thanks to the NOCLS for the fundraiser, and were touched by the many individuals who contributed to Dawson’s improved mobility over the past year.

On top of the $4,000 raised from individuals, local businesses also chipped in with funds, materials and services for the bathroom. The list of donating businesses includes Lit Electric Ltd., Emco, CK Design, Nu Floors, Reliance Plumbing, CL Mechanical and Mudweiser Drywall.

“We had donations of plumbing and faucets and tiles and counters… electricians who gave their time without charge,” said Leese.

Related: Second annual ‘Living Flag’ a success in Vernon

Related: Vernon society raises funds through living flag

After stopping by at the Buburuz residence, Leese and her co-worker, Ruth Callender, went to Shane and Liam Thiessen’s Spallumcheen house to hand them a cheque from this year’s fundraiser.

Shane’s son Liam, eight, lives with a rare lifelong form of epilepsy that constrains his mobility. Liam was in need of a standing frame to help him stand on his own two legs.

“It was not funded by the government even though it’s been recommended as something that’s imperative for Liam to be able to change positions and stand on his feet, and just really for his development,” said Callender.

The Thiessens were presented with a cheque for $2,500 to help pay for the standing frame, which costs about $3,000.

“I can’t say enough about NOCLS,” Shane said. It’s an emotional journey for the father, who has had to fight for respite money from the government in the past.

“The NOCLS helped us wade through that,” he said. “I think I’ve cried in their office, I’ve been angry… and they’re still calm, cool and collected.”

The organization also helped arrange funding from the Ministry of Child and Family Development for Liam’s support workers, who need to be present with him around the clock. That care work was previously taken up by family members.

For Shane, it would be impossible to imagine any other life – or any other son – than his own.

“I wouldn’t trade it for a minute. I love it, and I love him. But we can’t physically do it on our own.”

With the new equipment, Liam is now able to stand – and thanks to the community funding, his family is able to stay standing as well.

The first Living Flag fundraiser saw about 150 participants clad with red T-shirts join hands in the shape of a maple leaf at Grahame Park. As many as 200 made it out for the fundraiser this Canada Day.

The North Okanagan Community Life Society wish to give special thanks to Vernon Flying Club and the Vernon Lions Club for supporting this fundraiser in both years.


Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
Email me at Brendan.Shykora@vernonmorningstar.com
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