By Mark Dreger
As families from across the Okanagan gathered at City Park Saturday for runs and activities at the Okanagan Marathon the Boisvert’s were there to support the Sunshine Foundation that provided them with one of over 8,000 dream experiences the foundation has given across Canada in the last 30 years.
This winter 16-year-old Elise and her family will depart on her Dream Caribbean Cruise to swim and play in tropical waters.
Elise suffers from an invisible autoimmune disease that affects many of her joints and results in chronic pain. Swimming in warm water eases her joint pain and allows her the freedom to swim on her own without any assistance. The cruise will provide the perfect setting for her Sunshine Dream as she visits tropical destinations by day, and enjoys live entertainment with her family onboard the ship in the evening.
“The Sunshine Foundation contacted me over a year ago and they heard Elise’s story with what her journey’s been with an invisible autoimmune disease, and offered to maybe make a dream come true for her,” Elise’s mother Louise said. “The Sunshine Foundation was very persistent in supporting us and telling us how the process worked, so about six months ago they sent us a letter and a phone call saying that Elise’s dream vacation package had come of a Caribbean cruise and making her dream come true.”
“We’re just thrilled that year after year we’re able to come back to Kelowna to this event,” said Christine Freeman, Sunshine Foundation manager of partnerships and philanthropy. “It braces the whole community not only to raise funds, but to raise awareness for the Sunshine Foundation and we are totally grateful; we can’t do what we do without the community support.”
“Just do a lot of swimming,” Elise said when asked what she plans to do on the cruise, “because that’s kind of really the only activity that doesn’t hurt because the water takes the weight off. I’m really excited to spend a lot of time with my family and just have a really good time.”
With the Sunshine Foundation’s gift to the Boisvert family, Louise and Elise will make supporting the foundation a regular part of their volunteer requiem to help other sick kids’ dreams come true.
“I’ve done a lot of reading about all the families that the Sunshine Foundation has helped in the past and felt bad that I haven’t been more involved with them,” Louise said. “I’ve been kind of in my own bubble of focusing on [Elise’s] autoimmune disease that I didn’t realize how many kids out there have been helped by the Sunshine Foundation.”
“It’s a way of saying thank you for doing this for our family,” Elise added.
The BMO Okanagan Marathon is a valued event partner of The Sunshine Foundation of Canada raising vital funds to make dreams come true for children living with severe physical disabilities or life-threatening illnesses. Over the years the marathon has raised over $386,000 for the charity which has provided over 8,000 dream experiences across Canada.
“We’re able to run our dream program where we make dreams come true for children like Elise and others in the community,” Freeman said, “and without events like this and the fantastic support, we couldn’t do what we do.”