What it means to put the health of Island kids first


For nearly 100 years, we’ve been supporting the health of Island kids. And in that time, our organization has been known by different names. Our programs have evolved to support changing needs. We’ve operated in different buildings in different communities.

But what hasn’t changed in all these years? Our mission to invest in the health of Island kids. And the generous support of our community, which we’ve relied on since day one.

Our roots: Listening to community needs and taking action

Ivy and Emma at the Queen Alexandra Solarium, circa 1930


Our story begins in 1922, with a mother advocating for her child’s health. Edith Scott wrote a letter to the Women’s Institute of BC, asking for their help to find treatment for her 10-year-old stepdaughter, Polly.

Motivated by Edith’s story and concerned with the lack of suitable space for treating children, the Women’s Institute got involved. They began raising money to build a health care facility on the Island in the community of Mill Bay.

When the “Queen Alexandra Solarium for Crippled Children” opened in 1927 — thanks in large part to the leadership of the Women’s Institute — Polly was one of the first patients.

Over several decades, thousands of children with conditions like polio and tuberculosis came to the Solarium for treatment. In the 1950s, the facility relocated to Victoria to better serve patients and improve access to medical professionals. It was also renamed the Queen Alexandra Centre for Children’s Health.

More than 80 years after the Solarium’s first patient, the Foundation rebranded as Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island to better reflect the scope and scale of its support of all Island families.

A new approach: Keeping families together

More and more, we noticed families were travelling long distances to access care for their kids in Victoria. Parents had limited options for where to stay near the hospital and it was an added stress — one more thing to have to think about during a challenging time.

In 2012, we opened our first Home away from home, Jeneece Place. Located steps from Victoria General Hospital, it’s a welcoming space for families who need to travel for their child’s medical care. Last year alone, Jeneece Place hosted over 300 families, providing comfort in their time of need.

Inspired by the success of Jeneece Place, we built a second home away from home in 2021 in Campbell River. When Q̓ʷalayu House opened, we helped address a great need for support to the north Island and surrounding communities.

Jeneece Place’s living room Q̓ʷalayu House kitchen


Easing the financial burden of complex health care

In 2021, we launched a new initiative called Bear Essentials in response to another growing need around the rising cost of living. This family support program assists with the costs of health-related travel and equipment for Island kids, both of which have increased significantly with inflation in recent years.

Since April 2023, Bear Essentials has supported over 500 families from Vancouver Island and the surrounding islands. From covering costs associated with frequent travel to medical appointments to purchasing expensive specialized equipment such as communication devices, hearing aids, and wheelchairs, Bear Essentials has given Island families peace of mind and ensures the safety and independence of their children.

Building on our legacy through community partnerships

Beyond our programs, we also believe in sharing our legacy with future generations. We administer two annual bursaries to help young learners and health care providers access continuing education opportunities: the Lisa Huus Bursary and the Women’s Institute Bursary.

We continue to fund services at the QA Centre and have owned and operated the West Shore and Sooke Child, Youth, and Family Centres since 2004. These facilities house 11 community organizations serving more than 23,000 families combined.

Sooke Child, Youth & Family Centre West Shore Child, Youth & Family Centre


As we reflect on our near century of service, we extend our deepest gratitude to our donors. Every contribution, regardless of its size, impacts the lives of Island children and families. On behalf of Island kids and families, thank you. Your generosity honours our history and propels us forward as we continue to invest in the health of Island kids.