After years of volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society, Geraldine Van Bibber has cut ties with the national non-profit organization.
Instead, the former commissioner is helping to start a new fund, administered through the Yukon Hospital Foundation, to help people and families in the territory living with cancer.
In December, the Canadian Cancer Society announced its Yukon office at 211 Wood St. will close once its lease ends at the end of May. The society wants to save money on costs not directly related to cancer research.
The local office mainly provided information about other society services, like its lodges in British Columbia. According to the society, most Yukoners contacted the society through telephone, using services like the Smokers’ Helpline and the Cancer Information Service.
These services could be run without an office. The regional manager, Tammie Hannigar, worked her final day last week. The society now has one part-time employee in the Yukon. It will still host its Relay for Life fundraisers in the territory.
The office’s closure upset Van Bibber.
Last month, she gathered a group of citizens to talk about how they could stop the closure. Originally, they thought they might be able to convince the society to keep the office open.
But at a meeting last week, the group realized that was not going to be an option, she said.
Instead, they’ve decided to start a fund to help families living with cancer. “Cancer patients’ needs are wide and varied,” she said. The hospital foundation can use the raised funds to buy wigs or prosthetics, cover travel expenses, or even provide counselling for patients.
It’s important that the money be used to help local families, said Van Bibber.
Since the Canadian Cancer Society is a national organization, not all of the money raised here directly supports work in the Yukon.
“We get marginalized when we’re so far off, and they just feel that there’s so few people here, they don’t need to continue with services here,” she said.
That’s why she thought it would be good to offer an alternative for families here, said Van Bibber.
“We applaud any time the community rallies together to provide support or encouragement to those going through a cancer journey,” Peter Kingston, the vice president of operations for the society’s B.C. and Yukon region, said in an email.
Yukoners can still use the society’s lodges and Camp Goodtimes, a summer camp in Maple Ridge, B.C., for children or teenagers who have cancer and their families. The Smokers’ Helpline is also available, said Kingston.
Closing down the office doesn’t mean the society can serve Yukoners better, said Van Bibber. Senior Canadians may not feel as comfortable accessing services over the phone. And people in the communities may have less access to the phone and Internet than Whitehorse residents, she said.
The society is shutting doors across the country. Offices in Ladysmith and Parksville-Qualicum on Vancouver Island will close next month, said spokesperson Sheila Dong. Volunteers run these offices right now, she said.
The fund Van Bibbler is helping create doesn’t have a name yet. Hopefully, the new group will partner with other local organizations that raise money for fighting various types of cancer, she said.
“Any one program is never going to be the answer to everything, but I think we are going down a path that, I think it’s a good one,” she said. More information should be available about the fund next week, said Van Bibber.
People who want more information can contact Van Bibber at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Meagan Gillmore at