Henry Debowski, 5 years old, is battling leukemia in B.C. Children’s Hospital. (Submitted)

Anchored to the community: Vernon Yacht Club launches campaign for 5-year-old boy battling leukemia

The boats show is free to the public, so organizers are hosting a raffle to raise money for the costs associated with getting treatment.

One of the oldest boat shows in B.C. turned 30 this weekend and organizers at the Vernon Yacht Club used the occasion to help ease the financial stress of a young family who recently got some devastating news.

Almost 450 kilometres away from their home in Vernon, nine-year-old Henry Debowski and his mother Bristol are at the B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.

A couple of weeks ago, Henry started feeling ill. It began with a loss of appetite, and then Henry became too tired to go outside and play with friends. His mother knew it was time to see a doctor when, a few days after losing his appetite, Henry lost all colour in his skin. Soon, Henry was diagnosed with leukemia.

Because the cancer has not spread to his nervous system and because of his young age, Henry has a higher survival rate. With his mother by his side, he will spend the next seven months being treated with chemotherapy.

The often overlooked factor is the financial cost as Bristol, a single mother, will not be able to continue working while her son is in the hospital.

Hearing the news, many throughout the community have started to rally around the family: A GoFundMe campaign has been launched and fundraising events are being organized.

Knowing that hundreds of people would be visiting the Yacht Club for the 30th annual Boat and Watersports Show, organizers said they knew they had a unique opportunity to help Henry and his mother.

“The Debowski family has been a large part of the Vernon community for a few generations,” said VYC past commodore Lawrence Johnson. “The yacht club wants to try and help in the community and once we heard about this we knew we had to step up.”

The boat show was free to the public, so organizers decided the best way to raise money for the family at the event was to set up a table and sell raffle tickets. Organizers will also be advertising a follow-up event for the family to be held at the Elks Hall in Vernon on May 18 dubbed Henry vs. Leukemia.

“I am glad that we have a strong community at the Yacht Club to do what we can to help,” said Johnson.

Tickets for that event can be purchased at the Vernon Yacht Club and will feature several bands including The Goods, Becca T, The Bag Daddies and L.A. Johnson and friends.

As for Henry and his mom, they are determined to beat cancer.

Henry even shared this message on the Gofundme page: “Any amount you could give us would be really appreciated and help relieve some of my mom’s worries. I know she wants to be able to take me to do fun things on my “good” days and buy me Lego on days I’m sick of being in the hospital. Thank you for reading my story (feel free to share with others) and helping my family and me any way you can.”

To read Henry’s full message or to donate to his Go Fund Me page, visit gofundme.com/henry-vs-leukemia.

The Boat and Watersports Show runs this weekend (May 4 – 5) at the Vernon Yacht Club. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is free and a shuttle service will be running every ten minutes from Marshall Field.

Related: Army of support behind Morning Star saleswoman battling cancer

Related: Vernon fundraisers help local family battling throat cancer

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