Kelowna toddler and Mexican orphans benefit from Vernon fundraiser

Valentine’s for Mexico spreads smiles

Elara Rae of Kelowna is battling cancer at B.C. Children’s Hospital and will benefit from the Valentine’s for Mexico fundraiser in Vernon Feb. 21. (Submitted Photo)

Valentine’s Day may be over but the love continues to grow for children in need thanks to the Sweet Smiles Society.

The Vernon-based group is once again spreading love with Valentine’s for Mexico, an annual fundraiser supporting orphans and families in poverty. The 11th annual event takes place Friday, Feb. 21 at the Prestige Vernon Lodge, presented by A&W.

Sweet Smiles founder Barrita Durward has a soft spot for kids, and ensuring they can live the lives they are supposed to. Which is why she travels to Mexico every year to build and support orphanages and transition homes for children, some of whom are rescued from the streets, sex slavery and extreme poverty. The funds raised at the event support these efforts but every year a local family is also chosen to benefit from the fundraiser.

This year the Isagawa family in Kelowna is benefitting, as they are at BC Children’s Hospital with one-year-old Elara Rae who is battling cancer.

“She is not yet two and is facing a battle no one should have to face,” said Durward of the rare and aggressive yolk sac tumour Elara was diagnosed with on Christmas Eve.

Elara and her mother Jessica, father Nico and grandparents will spend four months minimum in Vancouver with the young girl.

To help support the family, Durward has added a treasure tree and burgundy balloon burst (one of six balloon bursts) to the fundraiser which will solely support them.

The event also includes an extravagant silent auction with everything from big screen TVs to diamond rings, trips and home improvement certificates. Plus you can win the contents of a treasure chest, liquor cabinet and more. But there are only two tables left before the event is sold out. Tickets are $89 and available at Cotton’s Chocolates on 30th Avenue. Anyone wanting to help support and donate additional auction items can contact Mali Cotton at 250-550-8207 or Durward at 778-212-2438, 250-503-2535 or cottonschocolates@shaw.ca.

READ MORE: Vernon Valentine’s for Mexico sold out – 2019

The additional funds raised will support three separate international projects.

The first is the City of Angels orphanage, where the society is looking to break ground on the seventh house, which will get eight additional children off the streets and into a home.

A much-needed expansion is also needed at the Transition House, which is where teenagers go to learn independence and how to live on their own before leaving the City of Angels.

“One of the angels from the orphanage just graduated university and is now a laywer,” said Durward. “Another young boy is going to school to become a doctor.”

The final projects is construction of a fifth home in the Family Preservation/Orphanage Prevention project in Hualtuco.

“Hualtuco is the second poorest area of all of Mexico,” said Durward, who has already helped four families escape extreme poverty.

The families are not only immensely grateful, they also pitch in, and are required to invest 800 hours of sweat equity into the build of their home.

Putting a solid roof over their head and foundation under their feet can make a world of difference in the lives of children, said Durward.

“The impact you’re making on these children is forever and always,” she said. “It’s a ripple effect. It gives them drive and inspires them and reminds them that their past doesn’t define who they are.”

READ MORE: Support stays on track for Silver Star Adaptive Snow Sports


@VernonNews
jennifer@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Paige Sines lends a hand demolishing during the Transition Program expansion in Cozumel recently. (Sweet Smiles Society photo)

Barrita Durward hauls away rubble from the demolition at the Transition expansion program in Cozumel recently. (Sweet Smiles Society photo)

Just Posted

Star Quebecois pianist to take the stage in Vernon

Charles Richard-Hamelin will play on Feb. 29, with opening act by local Grade 11 student

West Kelowna Warriors edge Vernon Vipers 6-4

The teams meet again on Saturday, Feb. 22 at 6 p.m. for the final game of regular season

North Okanagan Knights take on Kelowna Chiefs in playoff preview

The teams will square off for last game of regular season, Round 1 of KIJHL playoffs

Enderby announces plans for $150K ParticipACTION prize money

The city was crowned Canada’s most active community in June 2019

Fiery collision involving truck closes Highway 1 at Three Valley Gap

Drivers should expect major delays and congestion; estimated time of re-opening is 2 p.m.

HIGHLIGHTS: Day one and two at the 2020 BC Winter Games

Athletes had sunny – but cold – weather to work with in Fort St. John

Zamboni driver, 42, earns NHL win over Maple Leafs

Emergency goalie called into action for Carolina Hurricanes

Governor general says multiple solutions needed for ‘complicated’ overdose issue

Julie Payette met at a fire hall with firefighters and police officers as well as politicians and health experts

Landlord ordered to pay $11K after harassing B.C. mom to move days after giving birth

Germaine Valdez was pressured to move just a few days after giving birth by C-section to her child

Heart attacks strike B.C. husband and wife just over one year apart

Courtenay couple share personal stories to bring awareness to heart month

‘Nothing surprises us anymore:’ U.S. border officials find brain in package

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents found the brain packed in a glass mason jar in a Canada Post shipment

Prolific offenders from Alberta lead RCMP on chase from Kelowna to Abbotsford

Men first reported in Chilliwack ending with allegedly stolen vehicle in an Abbotsford pond

Adapting to love along the Columbia River

One man starts a GoFundme to help his partner with health costs caused on the trip where they met

B.C., Ottawa sign sweeping 30-year deal for northern caribou habitat

West Moberly, Saulteau co-manage new protection on two million acres

Most Read