The sixth Annual Candles by the River celebration is set to return to the banks of the Skeena in Hazelton on Saturday August 13 as the finale to Pioneer Day.
The candle luminary by the river, originally created by Jude Hobenshield, is a way to raise both money and awareness for Cancer. The disease which has affected her family for many years, is still a going concern for her to this day.
“Just about every female in my family has had breast cancer,” she explained. “Seven females in my family have passed away from the disease and I know that one day it will be on my doorstep. So I rather raise money now and try and make a difference while I can as it’s a big thing on my mind, especially having three daughters.”
Many years ago, Hobenshield brought the idea back to the Hazeltons after she had the opportunity to take part in a similar event in Victoria.
“When I went to a candle light ceremony in Victoria it was really touching,” she said. “You see so many people there and you know everyone has been touched by cancer in some way.”
It was that feeling of belonging and having the chance to pay her respects to those she had loved and lost that motivated her to create a similar event in her hometown. Last year she said the turnout was the best yet and more importantly, over the years she has succeeded in creating what she had dreamed of.
“A woman came up to me a few years ago who had been touched by cancer in a horrible way as she had lost her son, whom I had gone to school with, to the disease,” Hobenshield shared. “She didn’t know we had been doing the ceremony in the past and bought a luminary and went and sat by the river that night. She wrote her son’s name on the light and then sat on the ground and remembered the one she loved and lost. She wasn’t alone and she came up and gave me a hug… that moment in itself was why I had started doing this. It’s not necessarily how much money I raise, it’s about giving an opportunity for people to remember and grieve for the ones we loved and lost.”
While raising money may not have been the sole reason for creating the ceremony, it is a big part in trying to find a cure and helping those with the disease. It is with that in mind that Hobenshield contacted the Canadian Cancer Society last year and came up with another great way to help.
“The Cancer Society does a lot of things to help people,” she said. “They do put a lot of money in to research and finding a cure but they also help people by giving them a place to stay and a support network.”
There is currently a place in Vancouver where individuals suffering from the disease who are seeking treatment can stay for $44 a day. That includes three meals Hobenshield explained and sometimes they can do even more for people.
That knowledge inspired her to open a bank account at the Bulkley Valley Credit Union in Hazelton last year called Gifts from others and it has been able to help several people out over the past year.
“It is for people who can’t afford to go and get treatment,” she explained. “Our community has so many people with cancer and many of them can’t afford to get anywhere so we wanted to find a way to help them out.”
Hobenshield also added that it is a place where people can donate all year long.
The Cancer Society has put the event on their website and Hobenshied said she will be working closely with the organization in the future.
There will be luminaries available throughout the day at Pioneer Day and at the actual ceremony that night along the boardwalk in Hazelton as well which will run from 8:30 p.m. until 11:30 p.m.
As she looks forward to this years event she wanted to send one important message to everyone;
“Cancer is everywhere and we really need to do everything we can to make a difference.”