‘We need exposure’: Local charity wants you to get to know them

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‘I want the Twinkie Foundation to be something families think of automatically when their child gets sick’: The non-profit’s information session will be held over Zoom on Oct. 30

One of the Sault’s largest non-profits is organizing a public information session in an effort to remind the community of the services they offer for young families.

Created in 2017, the Twinkie Foundation helps support local families with travel costs when their child requires medical care out of town. The funding helps families with additional costs that a ministry-provided travel grant wouldn’t cover, including hotel accommodations, rental car and transit rates, and food.

Since co-founding the organization, Karen Lefave and her husband Greg have assisted hundreds of families with sick children receive the financial assistance they need to make those difficult trips – including 80 families in 2023 alone.

Although they’re nearing their seventh anniversary as a registered charity, Lefave says there are many eligible families who still aren’t aware they exist.

“What we need is exposure,” she told SooToday. “We need families to know we’re here. We can’t help them if they have no idea.”

“I had two applications in the last two weeks, and both of them brought up the fact that they found out about our foundation either after the fact, or they found out about us through hospitals in Toronto or London – but not locally.”

Lefave said one local family mentioned they’ve been going to Sick Kids every two months for the last three years and weren’t aware of the Twinkie Foundation and the travel costs they cover.

Comments like those can admittedly be disappointing to hear according to the co-founder, which is why she’s looking forward to hosting an information session over Zoom for community organizations and agencies who work with kids daily.

“I want to tell as many people as possible who work with these families, both in the medical environment and people who see these cases come up,” she explains. “I just want to tell people this is who we are, this is who we help, and this is how we can help. That way, they can have as much information at their fingertips as they need.”

“I will answer any questions that anyone has on the Zoom call,” she adds. “I’m happy so far with the requests I’ve gotten so far which is great. The more exposure on this info session we can get, the better. I’m excited.”

Among the invited organizations includes Sault Area Hospital medical staff, THRIVE Child Development Centre, Group Health Centre, local Ornge services, Midwives of Algoma, Algoma Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic, Child Care Algoma, and several daycare services.

“I want the Twinkie Foundation to be something families think of automatically when their child gets sick,” Lefave says. “The last thing they should have to do is worry about going to Toronto because they can’t afford it.”

“Our main goal is to decrease as much stress as possible for families,” she adds. “We obviously can’t make a child better or cure a sickness or disease, but we can help in other areas like financial assistance and guidance. We want everyone to know we’re here.”

While the Twinkie Foundation receives zero government funding, the non-profit has been given many generous donations from a number of community groups and fundraisers since their inception.

From vendor shows and hockey tournaments to comedy nights and the Smile Cookie campaign, Lefave says she couldn’t be more appreciative for the Sault’s generosity in helping families receive the care their sick children so desperately need.

“We’ve been wildly fortunate in this city for the donations we get,” she says. “We don’t have a lot of exposure for the families that need us, but on the flip side, we do have a lot of people who donate.”

To apply for Twinkie Foundation funding, the sick child must:

  • be under the age of 18
  • be a resident of Sault Ste. Marie or live within 100 kilometres of town
  • have a confirmed appointment at any medical facility 200 kilometres or further outside of Sault Ste. Marie

For more information on how to get involved with the Twinkie Foundation, or to join the upcoming Zoom information session on Oct. 30 at noon, contact can be made by visiting the foundation’s website or social media page.

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