PORT McNEILL — Even organizers were shocked by the response to two separate events held to benefit a cancer-stricken young family from Port Alice Saturday.
A silent auction at the Guide/Scout Hall in Port McNeill raised approximately $9,000 for 26-year-old Jessika Roberts, who has begun a second round of treatment for cancer after having been in remission following an initial diagnosis less than two years ago.
The first Bob Bailey Memorial Benefit hockey game was played later that evening in Port Alice and raised another $5,000 for Jessika, a married mother with three young children.
“That just wasn’t anything we were expecting,” said Melissa Legacy of Port McNeill, who teamed with Ashley Flanagan of Port Hardy to put on Saturday’s silent auction. “Our donations were amazing. We were just going to do a home-based business auction and expected 10 or 12 items, but it turned into 140 donations.”
And, despite the event being held the same weekend as the Rotary Club’s large annual fundraising auction, crowds packed the Guide/Scout Hall to peruse the offerings on the tables and place their bids. A donation tin stood on one table for those who wished to contribute, and a bake sale with goodies by donation kept visitors from going hungry.
“This is the best part about living in a small community,” said Kate Hosken, Legacy’s mother and a volunteer at the auction. “You don’t get this in a big city. We had our own loss to cancer 11 years ago and received amazing support from the community, so we’re paying it forward.”
Tami Kernachan of Port Alice said that was her motivation as she browsed the auction tables. Kernachan said she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent treatment at the same time as Roberts during her initial battle.
With the event promoted on Facebook and in the media, Legacy and Flanagan received offers of donations from well beyond Vancouver Island.
A baby’s teething blanket was contributed by a supporter in Alberta, and a caller from California offered to contribute after reading about the auction in the Gazette online.
“We were hoping to get maybe two or three thousand dollars,” Legacy said. “I’m just blown away by the community response.”