In the wake of tragedy, the lakecity community rallied together to support a local couple.
It has been an emotional few days for Rae-lynn Gilbert-Kerr and Graylan Bowe, a pair of young parents from Williams Lake with a one-year-old daughter named Kalaya. Gilbert-Kerr had been expecting twins and went into premature labour at only 25 weeks pregnant.
The young mother gave birth at Cariboo Memorial Hospital on Thursday, March 21, to her sons, Kane and Keano, who both weighed under two pounds. Tragically Kane died shortly after birth.
Currently, Gilbert-Kerr and Bowe are in Vancouver with their son, who will remain in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for the next two months, until he is big and strong enough to come home. In the meantime, his parents will both be taking time off work to spend at his side which is why an old friend of Gilbert-Kerr decided to step up.
“Our son Keano is a strong little fighter who is striving to survive the best that he can,” Gilbert-Kerr wrote in a Facebook post.
At the end of February, the maternity unit at CMH was closed temporarily due to a staffing shortage, however, there have been babies born there under emergenyc situations.
David Matear, executive director of Interior Health West told the Tribune last week that eight babies had been delivered at CMH since the closure.
On Friday, March 29, Courtney Vreeman the owner and operator of Still North Design Co. chose to hold a fundraiser in support of the family. For 24 hours all proceeds from online and retail sales in the store went directly to the family, with a basket on hand for cash donations.
Vreeman said that she has been good friends with Gilbert-Kerr since elementary school while growing up in Williams Lake. The friendship they’ve shared over the years is part of the reason she wished to support her now in this way.
“They’ll be in the NICU for a couple of months so they’ll definitely need the financial support of our community,” Vreeman said. “I think any little bit helps, especially because they still have their one-year-old (daughter) here.”
She hopes that with the money raised from her fundraiser they’ll be able to cover bills, car payments and other expenses while in the hospital. Eventually, when Keano is able to be safely moved, she said the family will be moved to a hospital in Kamloops which will make it easier for their daughter to visit them.
Vreeman said she feels blessed to be in a position to be able to assist her friend using her business and followers on social media to spread the word. Over the course of the day, she said they raised just over $3,500 in 24 hours.
“I think it’s amazing. We had lots of people in store lots of people I know, lots of her friends coming in just to buy stuff or even just drop money off for them,” Vreeman said. “I think it’s great other people want to help, it really shows the sense of community we have here in Williams Lake, we have such a good community.”
Both herself and Gilbert-Kerr wish to thank Williams Lake for supporting a young family in its time of need. Until Bowe and Gilbert-Kerr can return home and to work, Vreeman is leaving a donation box on her store’s counter for cash donations.
Editor’s Note: Previously this article stated the babies were born in Vancouver, when in fact they were born in Williams Lake at Carboo Memorial Hospital and then transferred to Vancouver.