Abigail McCorquodale and her father Doug talk about their travels from Port Hardy to Victoria throughout Abigail’s treatment, and what a difference Jeneece Place made – and soon Qwalayu House will make – to families who have to travel for medical care. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror

Qwalayu House in Campbell River to be North Island families’ home away from home

$7-million facility to be modeled on Jeneece Place in Victoria

Abigail McCorquodale has had over 60 life-changing – and often life-saving – surgeries throughout her relatively short time on this planet.

She was born without an esophagus, and she needed to essentially have one built by doctors, and then have it widened as she grew.

But grow she did. She is now a healthy young woman with dreams of being a dancer on Broadway – and well on her way, by all accounts.

But the 14-year-old is from Port Hardy, so for each of these often-prolonged hospital visits during her childhood, she traveled six hours to be treated in Victoria. As the youngest of four girls in the family, this meant that some – but not all – of her support system could travel with her to give her the support she needed.

For the past few years, however, she’s had a spot to have that support system around her: Jeneece Place, which opened in 2012.

“Though I was too young to remember,” McCorquodale told a group of dignitaries assembled atop a windy hill behind the Campbell River Hospital on Thursday, “my condition caused me to spend the first three months of my life in the ICU at Victoria General Hospital. I can remember my more recent surgeries, though. In the beginning, we would either stay in a hotel or drive home after being discharged. But in the later years, we stayed at Jeneece Place. It was amazing. It was right next to the hospital, so we could stay there before and after my surgeries, but my favourite thing about the house is that I was just another kid. I wasn’t someone who needed extra care or someone who had operations more than most people, I was just like everyone else.”

And now, after years of work, the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island (CHFVI) – which runs Jeneece Place in Victoria – has officially broken ground on a second facility, atop this windy hill behind the hospital, between the Campbell River Hospice Society offices on Evergreen and Yucalta Lodge on 2nd Avenue.

The 10-bedroom facility – each with its own private bathroom – will be called Qwalayu House. Construction is scheduled to begin next spring, with an anticipated opening the following year.

“A facility like Jeneece Place being constructed here in Campbell River will mean so much to the parents, kids and families of the small communities all over northern Vancouver Island,” says McCorquodale’s father, Doug, who joined the board of CHFVI about four years ago.

RELATED: A home away from home for Campbell River hospital patients in the works

RELATED: Home away from home to support families during kids’ medical treatment

But before the facility can fill this gap in the local healthcare services, CHFVI needs to raise $7 million. That amount will get the facility built and operating, as well as fund its operation for the first five years.

Amazingly, donations of almost half of that amount were also announced Thursday at the groundbreaking. An anonymous donor has seeded the funding pool with a $3 million gift, the architect of the building, Alan Lowe – who was also the architect of Jeneece Place – is donating $90,000 to the project, and another $200,000 was donated by Victoria-based Help Fill a Dream Foundation.

But according to Veronica Carroll, CEO of CHFVI, every donation, no matter how small, makes a difference, and it will be the community coming together that makes this project a reality.

Anyone interested in helping, or learning more about the project, can visit islandkidsfirst.com/campbellriverhome for more information or make a donation.



miked@campbellrivermirror.com

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