A Harmony mom battling breast cancer who had trouble finding resource books for her kids applauded as the announcement was made.
“I couldn’t be any happier today,” Cindy Roberts said.
43-year-old Roberts was diagnosed with breast cancer last August. At the time, her son Chase and daughter Fable were age nine and seven. Roberts had difficulty finding age-appropriate resource books on the subject of cancer to share with her kids.
A young hockey player on the Western Valley Spartans who knows Roberts, Jack Scoville, asked his teammates about holding a fundraiser for her. They agreed, playing a hockey game as a benefit for Roberts and raising more than $400.
Roberts asked if they would mind if she used $300 to purchase breast cancer resource books for children to donate to local libraries. The young hockey players were quick to throw their support behind the cause.
As a result of the fundraiser, 18 titles have been purchased for the Annapolis Valley Regional Library (AVRL). Each has a plate inside the front cover indicating that it was donated by the Western Valley Spartans Pee Wee AA team. Attention has also been focused on an overall shortage of publicly-accessible cancer resource books for children.
Now, thanks to $5,000 in funding announced by Kings West MLA and Communities, Culture and Heritage Minister Leo Glavine at the Kingston Library on June 10, all regional libraries across the province will see an influx of new books.
The nine regional libraries across Nova Scotia have established a core collection of 15 books to help children coping with a parent with a serious illness. Each regional library will receive at least two copies of each title in the core collection, which includes an assortment of fiction and non-fiction. The collection will be available in the coming weeks.
Roberts said it feels really good to know that kids across the province are going to get the books and that the right thing is being done.
She said the funding announcement demonstrates that one suggestion made by one child can end up making a significant impact. This touched Roberts’ heart and she said the young hockey players gave her a tremendous gift.
One thing that really makes Roberts happy is that a particular book from the United Kingdom that she wanted to get for her daughter but couldn’t is now part of the AVRL collection: Eek! My Mummy Has Breast Cancer by Emma Sutherland. Fable will get to borrow it first.
Roberts said she received a number of calls from other mothers looking for similar resource books after an article about the fundraising initiative was published in March.
“One of my major stressors, and I don’t know why, was the fact that I couldn’t get the books for my kids, which were so important,” Roberts said.
She was pleased to learn after a second article was published that the AVRL was already working toward acquiring more age-appropriate cancer resources.
A DIFFICULT CONVERSATION
AVRL CEO Ann-Marie Mathieu said one of the many difficult questions parents face when a family member is diagnosed with cancer is “what do I tell my children?”
“Talking to a child about a parent, grandparent or sibling’s cancer and how it will affect the family is not easy but it’s necessary and this is why this collection is so important,” Mathieu said. “These materials make it easier to have that conversation.”
AVRL community engagement co-ordinator Angela Reynolds did some research to find more titles that would be good to add to library collections province-wide. To make the materials more accessible, they established a book list on the AVRL website and there is currently a display of the books at the Kingston Library.
“We try and make it easier for everyone to find things and when the community says we need access to something and we need to find something easier, that’s our job to make that happen for people,” Reynolds said.
Glavine said that in many ways, Roberts is the author of the June 10 funding announcement. The situation Roberts and other parents are facing is a prime example of why libraries need to be equipped with the right resources. It’s important for the province to continue working with libraries to accomplish this.
Glavine said he was inspired by Roberts’ story and that of the Western Valley Spartans hockey team fundraiser. After a visit from Roberts at his office, Glavine said he knew that something had to be done. However, his “deepest frustration” after all his years in government is that things don’t happen quickly enough.
“Cindy, you’ve been a strong voice in our local community and deserve to be recognized for the work on this, as well as your personal strength as you, yourself, are fighting breast cancer,” Glavine said.
He said a new core funding formula for regional libraries is in the works that will be revisited every five years to make sure it is “in tune with the needs of our communities across the province.”