CCF aims to build strong local branch

Eight families will be treated to a ride on TSS Earnslaw this weekend during a Child Cancer Foundation (CCF) event that will, in part, look to establish a formal branch of the foundation in the Wakatipu.

CCF Otago/Southland family support co-ordinator Christine Donovan, of Dunedin, told the Queenstown Times there had been a ''spike'' in the number of Queenstown Lakes families referred to the foundation in the past couple of years.

''We've had such few referrals up until [recently] - one new family every two or three years - but we've had five in quick succession.

''Statistically, with the rate the area of the Wakatipu Basin is growing, we will see increased numbers of families referred to us for support.''

Ms Donovan said it was often difficult for families in the Central Otago and Queenstown Lakes Districts who had a child affected by cancer, due to the isolated nature of the area.

''It's different being in, say, Christchurch, where you've got a treatment centre on your doorstep.''

While there was a branch in the area, set up about 25 years ago, it had been several years since it had had office-bearers such as a treasurer and secretary.

''We want to have a bit of a discussion with the families about how we can better support them and help get a strong branch up and running.

''I think there's a need to have regular get-togethers - I know that's not easy; we've got some families in Wanaka and further afield.

''It's a big geographical area, but families could be getting together on a regular basis.''

Real Journeys had donated tickets for the families to ride on Earnslaw to Walter Peak on Sunday, where they would have the chance to network and brainstorm.

Ms Donovan said one of the most valuable aspects of the branch was its ability to support families with a child diagnosed with cancer. Figures showed three children in New Zealand were diagnosed with cancer each week and children underwent a total of 100,000 treatments and procedures annually.

For each treatment, a child received a Bead of Courage from CCF. Many children had more than 1000 beads.

There was ''huge value'' in being in a network with other families who understood what it was like having a child with cancer.

''Often families don't even tend to talk a lot about their experiences, but knowing there's someone else who's been through it and understands what it's like helps,'' she said.

March is Child Cancer Appeal Month, during which the foundation aims to raise $1 million to help children with cancer and their families. It hopes to reduce the impact of cancer by offering services to ensure children and their families are supported, informed and well cared for during and after treatment.

Ms Donovan said funds to support families were always needed. Financial assistance was provided for travel costs and to help siblings or extended family such as grandparents, as they were not covered by Ministry of Health funding.

The Foundation receives no direct funding from the Government or from any other cancer charities and relies on the support of New Zealanders to help fight child cancer.

Anyone interested in either assisting with fundraising or helping to set up a branch of the CCF in the Wakatipu can contact Ms Donovan on (03) 471-2528.

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