After nearly dying of cancer at infancy, Carie Stock has dedicated her life to supporting others suffering from the disease.
“I feel like I found my purpose because of that,” said Stock, 32, executive director and founder of the Helping Families Handle Cancer Foundation (HFHCF).
The non-profit organization provides financial support to families with children diagnosed with cancer by covering costs associated with cancer treatment, from medication to medical travel costs, and even just parking passes at the hospital.
“Something so simple like that is such a huge help,” said the Cochrane High School grad.
“By us paying bills for families and giving them their time with their kids, you’re giving them time that they might not ever get back.”
Funds are also allocated toward standard household fees such as rent, gas and groceries, allowing parents to spend less time at work and more at the hospital.
“They’re going through what’s probably going to be the worst time in their life,” said Stock.
“You’re giving the kids their parents in a time that’s very scary, and when they need someone to hold their hand and tell them it’s going to be OK.”
Families with patients in the Alberta Children’s Hospital can be referred to HFHCF by social workers at the facility.
“We’re very lucky to have such great social workers that support us,” said Stock.
“They help identify which families need help, and then refer them to us.”
Since originating in 2008, HFHCF has assisted more than 450 families with funding exceeding $500,000.
“The way Carie comes in, it’s not just financial support, it’s also emotional support,” said Robyn Carrier, 54, Stock’s mother.
“Just to affect their journey; whatever the outcome might be.”
Stock was diagnosed at 13 months old with rhabdomyosarcoma – a soft tissue tumour the size of a grapefruit lodged in her abdomen.
With two years of chemotherapy and undergoing a total of 15 surgeries until she was six years old, Stock’s cancer recovery encompassed the majority of her childhood.
“The earliest I can recall in life, I was in the hospital,” said Stock.
Stock and Carrier would spend three weeks out of every month in the hospital over the course of her chemotherapy.
“It was intense and exhausting,” said Carrier.
Carrier was eight months pregnant when Stock was diagnosed, causing the single mother to quit her schooling to look after her children.
“When I went through cancer and she shared her journey, I just felt like there was something more that could’ve been done,” said Stock.
Even the day of delivering her second child, Carrier visited the hospital to check on her recovering daughter.
“She made everything feel like it would be OK,” said Stock.
At the age of six, Stock began attending Camp Horizon, an annual outdoor camp for children with disabilities and diseases, where she first became involved in the cancer community.
Stock remained involved in the camp for more than a decade, participating in fundraising events and becoming a camp counsellor at 18 years old.
Many of the friends she made during that time have become active in HFHCF as volunteers and even on the board of directors.
“Her life has been all about being in the cancer community, to the point where she has said that she’s glad she had cancer,” said Carrier.
For her extensive involvement in cancer care efforts, Stock was awarded with the Terry Fox Humanitarian Award (TFHA) in 2007 along with a scholarship to study non-profit studies at Mount Royal University.
She now sits on the TFHA committee and assists with picking future award recipients.
“It’s my favourite thing to do, because you get so inspired by hearing what other people are doing,” said Stock.
Stock was the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee award in 2012 for her work with HFHCF.
Two fundraisers for the foundation will be held in May, starting with a Mother’s Day Tea event on May 14 at the Crestmont Community Centre at 12400 Crestmont Blvd. SW in Calgary from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Desserts and tea in old-fashioned cups will be served. A Growing Smiles fundraising event will be selling flowers online at helpingfamilies.growingsmilesfundraising.com/home between May 1 and May 14. Orders can be picked up May 26 and 27 in Cochrane at 61 West Mackay Crescent. There are also pick-up locations in Airdrie and Calgary.
Additionally, Aug. 6 will see the fourth annual Shooting for a Cause charity paintball event, which will include a silent auction and raffle. The event will be held a the Capture the Flag Outdoor facility at 72032 North, Range Road 40.
“It’s because of the fundraisers that are coming up that allow us to continue to do this for families,” said Stock.