A Tillsonburg family is looking to the community for support and financial assistance after a sudden and life-changing diagnosis of cancer in early in 2013.
Third-generation Tillsonburg resident Kelly Collens became severely ill in December 2012, and was diagnosed in mid-January 2013 with aggressive lung, spine, and brain cancer.
Members of her family moved to Tillsonburg for several months, to be near her through this difficult time.
“That’s what family does,” said Regan Grill, Collens’ sister-in-law, who normally resides in Nanaimo B.C. “We left on January 21 and arrived here on January 29.”
Grill and other family members decided to raise funds to help cover medical expenses and extra costs accrued due to a loss of income.
The ‘Karing for Kelly’ Spring Gala, Saturday, May 11 evening at the Tillsonburg Legion, is a fundraising initiative created to help the Tillsonburg woman during a difficult time and to help financially support the family while she battles cancer. The gala will feature a dance with a late lunch, a snack bar, cash bar, a 50/50 draw and door prizes. Tickets are $10 each in advance, $15 at the door and are almost sold out.
“We’ll do some special things as well, we’ve got some stuff planned,” Grill added.
Collens is a young mother of two children, Sam 16 and Ashley 13, and the sole income earner for her family. She has worked over the years as a nurse, and was self-employed as a medical consultant when she suddenly fell ill in December, and lost her income weeks later. Due to her severe illness and ongoing battle with cancer, Collens has been unable to work since the diagnosis and has no disability insurance.
“Kelly is receiving treatment in Mexico – they have some interesting advancements in cancer medicine called bio-medicine, a type of cancer treatment,” said Grill. “So there was a lot of hope for her receiving some different treatment than what she was getting here in London.
“She’s in (a hospital in) Tijuana, Mexico and initially when she arrived they told her she’d be there for six weeks but it’s increased and now she’s looking at least ten weeks.”
Since January, it’s been a difficult time for the entire family, including her two teenaged children.
“It’s shocking and overwhelming at times - there’s been a lot of stress,” said Grill. “But we’re a really close family and we’re very supportive of each other and everybody’s been working together to help out and keep things as normal as possible for the kids,” she added, noting the support network of family and friends who are helping Collens get through this emotionally-draining time in her life.
Grill said Collens may get a little bit of help from CPP disability with the (Government of Canada), but this is not confirmed. There remains uncertainty about how much assistance she will receive or where the help will come from.
“That’s why we’re fundraising,” Grill said. “We found out there was going to be some limited income, based on minimal benefits. I opened an informal trust account and then Kelly’s daughter and I started brainstorming and talking one night. We decided to go ahead with this event, the Karing For Kelly Spring Gala.”
In addition to the spring gala, there was a penny drive kickoff at North Broadway Baptist Church as part of a broader fund-raising event Saturday, April 20. Residents are encouraged to bring their collected pennies to the spring gala.
There will also be a silent auction of donated items
“We’re probably going to do a used section as well, so it could be a brand-new item or it could be a gently used item,” said Grill. “It can be anything from household items to electronics.”
The committee is asking for donations from the community to help with this event.
Grill said she and the family are grateful for the community support they have received, especially for the Legion and North Broadway Baptist Church for waiving fees on the hall rentals for the spring gala and various fundraising events.
The family has a goal to raise $100,000 and so far have raised over $15,000. With so many people in Canada fighting cancer today, there are many reasons to give to cancer research and the Canadian Cancer Society.
Grill wants Tillsonburg residents to know there are also reasons to support one of their own – Kelly Collens, through a very difficult time in her life.
“She’s a generous, kind-hearted, loving person,” said Grill. “She gives her heart to everything that she does and she’s lived in this community a long time.”
There are still a few tickets remaining for the Karing for Kelly Spring Gala. Anyone who would like to donate an item for the silent auction or who would like to purchase tickets is invited to contact Grill at (519) 688-5389 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit the website: www.karingforkelly.yolasite.com.