Meet Lucas: How Bear Essentials is a lifeline for families of Island kids with complex needs
Island kid Lucas is a happy little guy. Like many other five-year-olds, he loves learning at school, playing with his brother, and swimming.
While in many ways Lucas is just like his classmates, he also faces a range of complex health challenges that make life that much more difficult for him and his family. Diagnosed early in his life with global developmental delay, a severe intellectual disability, and breathing issues, Lucas requires specialized equipment and care.
“There are so many special things he needs,” says his mom, Laura. “It’s a constant struggle, wondering how you’re going to pay for everything. I’ve lost a lot of sleep over our finances.”
With her husband often away working for the coast guard and Laura running a daycare and juggling part-time work as an education assistant, life is chaotic—even without Lucas’ unique challenges.
As Lucas is nonverbal, he is unable to share stories of his weekend with his friends at school or simply communicate his basic needs to his parents. That is – until Laura was able to purchase an iPad through the Bear Essentials program. Designed to assist with the costs of health-related equipment and travel, the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island Bear Essentials program helps thousands of Island kids like Lucas every year.
With the apps on the iPad, Lucas can learn through images, socialize with his friends, and even use pictures to initiate storytelling.
“Now he can show off his little voice, even though it’s not coming from his own body; at least now we know what he wants,” says Laura.
And thanks to Bear Essentials, Laura and her husband were also able to purchase an adjustable off-road stroller that keeps Lucas secure while they are outside of the house. As he often bolts away from his family, Laura constantly worries about keeping him safe while they are running errands, at appointments, and even simply out for a family walk.
The stroller also helps Lucas to stay focused on the task at hand, whether he is eating breakfast or practicing speech therapy. Simply put, the chair has been lifechanging for the family.
“Before, it was hard to get things done because he was running off or getting tired easily,” says Laura. “Now, I can go grocery shopping or visit the doctor when I’m on my own. It also allows us to go more places with him. We are an active family. We like to go forest walking and geocaching because my nine-year-old loves that and now we’re able to do it without Lucas getting too tired.”
Every day, Bear Essentials gives Island families access to the vital health equipment their kids need to thrive. The program provides families with gas money to get to their child’s medical appointments, accommodation when they need to stay overnight, and specialized equipment like wheelchairs, insulin pumps, and Lucas’ iPad and off-road stroller.
“When we found out that Bear Essentials would help, it was such a relief. You feel like you can breathe again,” says Laura. “We’re just so thankful that we now have the supports and the tools at our house that he needs.”