Avril Chevigny was just six years old when she found herself in the battle of her life.
After three months of treatment in her fight against Lymphoma/Leukemia she returned home.
At that time Avril and her family started fundraising to help other sick children.
With help from the community Avril and her family raised $75,000 which was donated to Children’s Hospital and Ronald McDonald House in Vancouver.
Many people in the community will remember back to 1995, one heart-warming community fundraiser in front of a packed Stampeder’s game in Cariboo Memorial Complex arena.
Avril, dressed in her favourite colour purple, sat while more than 40 RCMP officers and 20 Pioneer employees had their heads shaved as part of the ongoing fundraising efforts in her honour.
As part of the fundraising efforts Pioneer Log Homes built and raffled off a log gazebo and a log play house to help raise the money.
After Avril died in the spring of 1996, at just eight years old, the donations kept arriving in her honour, so her family created the Avril Chevigny Fund.
In 1997, with generous support from the community through the Avril Chevigny Fund and 139 Children’s Fundraising Society the Avril Chevigny Memorial Playroom was built just outside the emergency room at Cariboo Memorial Hospital.
The hospital play room continues to be well used by sick children and their siblings visiting the hospital today.
Quietly over the past 17 years Avril’s dad, André, has been using the fund to help families with children fighting cancer and serious illness in Williams Lake and surrounding area.
Since its inception the fund has given 10’s of thousands of dollars to families in need and crisis, Andre says.
Donations have been used for necessities such as comfort items for sick children, as well as travel and accommodation to take sick children for treatment in larger medical centres.
For many years Avril’s fund also provided the popsicles for sick children and their siblings visiting Cariboo Memorial Hospital.
André meets personally and confidentially with parents in need and can help on the spot.
“When we give, we give discretely,” André says. “I know from experience that when a crisis happens with your child, it happens now.”
He says from experience, fathers like himself who are experiencing the trauma of caring for and facing the loss of a sick child, are often reluctant to ask for help.
“It’s a pride thing for families, especially the husbands, to ask for help,” André says. “It’s a beautiful thing when I meet with a family one on one, because I understand what they are going through.
“It is a blessing for me to be able to sit with the mom and dad and share my experience; hopefully I can offer something positive. I’ve been there and walked in their shoes. I can sit across from them and they understand that I get it.”
André and his brothers, David Chevigny and Bryan Reid, owners of community base businesses, have continued with some low-key fundraising projects over the years and have had some very much appreciated donations from various community groups to help keep Avril’s fund going.
André’s 13-year old son, Tevis is also proud of his father’s effort to keep his sister’s fund active.
almart and its employees in Williams Lake donated $2,600 to the Avril Chevigny Fund.
Walmart manager John Donnelly says half the funds were raised directly by associate employees and the other half was matched by Walmart.
It wasn’t the first time Walmart has donated to the fund.
A couple of years ago Walmart and its employees also donated $3,200 to the fund.
André says both donations came as welcome and much appreciated surprises because he hadn’t told anyone at Walmart about Avril’s fund.
“He (Donnelly) surprised me both times,” André says, “The first time was at Christmas 2010. I was away and when I came back there was a cheque waiting for Avril’s Fund.”
For his part Donnelly says he found out about the Avril Chevigny Fund through the ongoing in-house fundraising Walmart associates do on their own to help fellow employees who are caring for sick children.
“A lot of people are having tough times and we need to help,” Donnelly says of Walmart’s donation to the Avril Chevigny Fund. “It is our moral obligation.”
While fundraising for the Avril Chevigny Fund has been fairly low key in recent years, André would like to become more involved in community fundraising efforts to keep the fund going and invites the community to come to him with their fundraising ideas.
“I’ll flip burgers, or volunteer for a donation — whatever,” André says.
While is it fun to be working abroad with the large Pioneer family, André explains that it feels very special to give, especially in Avril’s name.
“It’s so special that she is so alive in our community, I continually see her presence and it’s a beautiful thing.”
While Avril didn’t survive her battle with cancer, André reminds everyone that some kids do get through it.
“I have had the opportunity to meet and help some very special families over the years,” André says. “It’s great to be able to help a family, while honouring them and my daughter at the same time. Every child’s situation and battle is different and you have to remain positive no matter what.”
When monetary help is given from Avril’s fund to a family André explains it’s from the community.
“Williams Lake is an amazing place,” André says. “When children or youth are sick its incredible how the community pulls together to help. In this world we have to understand that it isn’t about taking.
“It is about giving back. As long as I can keep the fund going I want to offer this resource to families in crisis with their kids.”
Anyone who might have fundraising ideas for the Avril Chevigny Fund or knows of someone who may need help can contact André at 250-392-0868.