Even more than a visit from Santa Claus, Sadé Ashby longs for a visit from her father, who lives in Barbados and hasn't seen her in nearly three years. The Victoria 10-year-old, who underwent a liver transplant at age two after developing a rare tumour, still suffers from debilitating migraines, asthma and a weakened immune system.
You wouldn't know it from her voice - she says she keeps her spirits up by playing with her friends and her hamster, Chellsyi, instead of focusing on the tough stuff she faces.
Her mother, Diane Wilde, supports them with $925 in monthly income assistance, and is not eligible to sponsor SadÃ©'s father. Nor can she afford to help him pay for airfare for a visit. But dad Adrian, who works as a roofer and plumber, finally got a computer, so now they can "visit" online.
"It's the first time we've seen his face in about three years," says Wilde, who has applied to the Christmas Giving Program, which includes the Times Colonist Christmas Fund, to provide treats and toys she would otherwise not be able to afford.
The Times Colonist Christmas Fund began in 1956 as the Daily Colonist 500 Fund, named for the number of needy families it was designed to help in Greater Victoria through contributions from caring readers. Today, the goal is to help 2,500 individuals and families through food vouchers and certificates to purchase gifts for children. The generosity of Times Colonist readers generates more than $250,000 a year for people in need.
SadÃ© loves reading - although it's restricted these days due to her migraines. She would be delighted to see Bratz dolls under the tree or Barbie's Spin to Clean Laundry Room. Barbie's entire house would be thrilling, but not nearly as much as seeing her dad. "It's so sad - her dad needs to be here for her," Wilde says. He has spent several long visits in Canada over the years, but Wilde has yet to figure out how to get him here. "He cries because he just feels so terrible."
The last time SadÃ© talked with her dad online, Wilde overhead the girl asking, "Daddy, are you promising me you're coming home?"
Wilde, who worked fulltime for many years in group homes and with mentally disabled people before staying home to help SadÃ©, has suspended the homeschooling she's been doing for the last five years because the child's migraines have worsened. The intensity of the pain can make her scream and vomit, Wilde said. SadÃ© is scheduled to see a pediatric neurologist today.
SadÃ© loves Christmas and is already singing carols. But the duo doesn't go out much in winter to avoid catching colds or the flu - SadÃ©'s immune system is compromised due to the immuno-suppressants necessary for transplant survivors.
More than once, she has been in hospital on a ventilator after developing a serious cold. Her asthma may have resulted from mould that was growing, unbeknownst to Wilde, "two feet up the wall behind her bed" in the lower level of the subsidized housing facility where they live. Moving upstairs led to a rent increase that Wilde says now costs her 52 per cent of her income assistance.
The $40 monthly supplement from the province that SadÃ© once received for a high-protein diet has been rescinded, Wilde said, so the family relies on both the Mustard Seed Food Bank and St. Vincent de Paul for groceries to get them through the month. Mom and daughter like to make cookies together - it helps to take their minds off the pressures that are with them year-round but increase at Christmas time.
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