How the pandemic changed programming
WCK began running programs in 2019 – and we all remember what happened the following year. During that time, we listened and adapted to families' priorities. This blog explores how that approach has shaped, and continues to shape, the way we deliver programming.
The early days
WCK was very young when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. The story of our earliest days includes how our response shaped the food programs and the kids & teens programs at that time.
“WCK asked a bunch of questions and found out from the community what really mattered to them. We listened, and that altered our course. We got busy doing the stuff that matters today.” – Colin Worth, WCK co-founder
By listening to families, and by being responsive to their priorities, we changed course from the original vision and developed programs to address immediate, practical needs.
What came next
Seeing the impact of that provision, we learned that the programs were not just needed in a pandemic. Families navigating childhood cancer and blood disorders can face their own kinds of “lockdown” in so many ways. Showing up with nourishing meals remains a vital form of support at any time.
“So often, you get questions of, 'What do you need?' How can I help?' And you don’t know. It’s impossible to answer. Figuring out cooking, shopping…the WCK meal deliveries take out such a big stress that you don’t even realize you’re carrying.” – Parent
"When my son got diagnosed we had to leave our home behind and get flown out overnight to live in Vancouver. I had no time to pack anything or get organized. It was traumatic. My social worker went to the freezer and got a WCK meal for me, and it was the first meal I had since it all happened. That was my lifesaver meal at that point." – Parent
We also learned that virtual programs should stay. They open up opportunities for fun and connection for kids affected by cancer and blood disorders – including siblings – no matter their location or treatment status.
“I’ve felt happy because I haven’t felt lonely. As someone with a blood disorder, it really helps to hang out with people who actually understand what I’m going through.”
– 13 year-old Hangouts participant
Cancer is a normal part of what we talk about without it being the focus. It’s hanging out with your friends, playing games, telling jokes…just talking about your everyday life. You know you’re in a safe space and you can open up.”
– Hangouts youth participants
At a time when people became more comfortable with meeting online, we were able to start peer support programs for caregivers. We now run coffee chats and themed sessions over Zoom to share information, encouragement, and resources.
"As a caregiver, peer support is essential to your mental health while navigating the world of pediatric cancer. It is so important to know that you're not walking alone." – Parent
In-person opportunities gradually returned, too. We ran walking groups, held community events, and restarted City Camp for the kids.
meeting new challenges
More recently, Connections Programs Coordinator Kelsey saw the impact that the pandemic had on the in-person City Camp program:
“Last summer was our first summer back to in-person camp. As amazing as it was, there were new challenges. People’s behavioural, emotional, and physical needs were different. What worked before – from experience and research – didn’t work so well. We realized that we need to show up differently, and put in the work to figure out what ‘different’ looks like.”
We realized that there was a three-year stretch where volunteers didn’t get any face-to-face experience with kids. Showing them how we talk to and engage with kids, and even practical things like how to get a group of children’s attention, became a bigger focus for training.
how we adapted
This year, we went back to basics. We went back to our "kid philosophy" and how we live it out. We kept the good parts that worked from before, and used Kelsey’s background in recreation therapy to plan and deliver programming that meets new needs.
"At City Camp, I saw many beautiful smiles on kids' faces. I had fun playing with them and letting my inner child out. It was a great experience that required dedication and patience to set up activities, be a leader, and provide support as needed." – Spring Break 2023 Volunteer
"We LOVE WCK! This is the one and only place my child feels like a real person and not just a diagnosis. Everyone at WCK is accepting and caring about everyone’s needs and wants." – Parent
How we go forward
“Sometimes it’s easy to get stuck saying, 'How do we do this?' But WCK just does it. They figure it out and tweak it as they go. Instead of doing nothing, waiting…they show up.” – Parent
The families are our biggest asset. The only reason we can do what we do is because they share so generously with us. We will keep bringing things to them, keep asking them what they think, and keep listening. This helps us to plan and deliver support that makes the most real and meaningful impact in their lives.
Having developed consistent programs that provide practical, everyday support to families across B.C., WCK is now in an exciting phase of growth. The staff team is growing, and the programs are each scaling up to meet more needs than ever before.
WCK measures success by the difference we make to families. It's by continually learning from them about what matters most, and adapting to their priorities, that we achieve our mission:
Deliver timely, practical support to respond to the needs of B.C. kids and their families, easing their way as they navigate childhood cancer and blood disorders.