When artists get sick, the creative culture of a community loses important voices.
Two local creative writing instructors have come to the conclusion it’s time this important sector of the Okanagan economy has the same backup as areas with structured critical illness coverage.
“We’re starting the Bella Dona Foundation for female entrepreneurs who do not have financial support,” explained Rand Zacharais, a freelancer and friend of Dona Sturmanis.
Sturmanis is an Okanagan College writing instructor, freelance journalist and writer who has carved a niche in the region’s feature writing and small book publishing scene.
In June, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and discovered she might need months of expensive drugs to traverse the peaks and valleys of battling this pervasive disease.
One in three women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime and breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women. For those who are single, independently employed and without a family support network to fall back on, it can be a devastating spot.
“You can go on welfare, but those bureaucracies can be very slow and people can lose their homes so quickly,” said Sturmanis.
When she was told about her own diagnosis, her biggest concern was wondering what the future would look like given the fact she needs to work to live.
“A foundation will bring a lot of awareness for writers and artists and musicians who don’t have the backup of a regular job,” she said.
There is government funding for those who work in communications and writing and Sturmanis has applied for that support. Having navigated the paperwork to this point, however, she knows every sick person in her situation will not necessarily have the energy to secure those dollars and make them count. This is where the foundation could help.
“Ultimately, we want to get artists coming together to help artist,” she said, noting it might mean help with paperwork, it might mean actual funds.
Proceeds from their first fundraiser will go toward supporting Sturmanis herself, who is waiting to hear whether she will begin a program of chemotherapy, radiation or natural medicine following a mastectomy operation last month.
From this point forward she is expecting to tap into her savings to cover the impending costs.
The daylong festival of the arts fundraiser for Sturmanis and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation will help ease the burden, so she and Zacharias can begin work on creating the Dona Sturmanis Foundation. The festival will be held at Summerhill Pyramid Winery this Sunday Oct. 21 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
A mystery auction featuring original works by artists Cherie Hanson, Rosemary and George Greedy and Donna May Lee will be up for bid. Musicians Gordon James and Anna Jacyszyn will perform live and local poets will be out for readings.