“Todd is going for chemo.”
That simple statement, exchanged between friends in September while waiting for their girls to get out of school, has sparked months of fundraising efforts within the close-knit community of Ross Elementary.
Renee Barrett, mother of a small, hardworking Abbotsford family, had no idea that allowing two women at her eldest daughter’s school in on her heartbreaking news would amount to an outpouring of support over the past few months.
Upon learning that Renee’s husband Todd had been diagnosed on June 23 with Stage 4 cancer, fellow parent Lara Rempel and grandparent Gloryann Houle realized the seriousness of Renee’s admission and were motivated to take action on behalf of her young family.
They organized a series of fundraisers through the school, including a Ford Drive One 4 UR Community test drive event that raised several thousand dollars at the start of fall. With Todd hospitalized again and unable to work, the duo are now reaching out to Abbotsford residents for help.
“They truly are such wonderful people,” said Houle. “If the tables were turned, Todd and Renee would be doing whatever they could to help someone in need. They are both strong, courageous, loving people. They won’t ask for help.”
The outdoorsy couple, both in their late 30s, are long-time residents of Abbotsford. Todd, formerly of Merritt, moved here in 1991, and Renee from Aldergrove a few years later. Together for 15 years and married for nine, they spoke of always wanting a family, and are blessed with daughters Macie, 6, and Chase, 3. When asked to talk about her husband, Renee’s first response was to tell of his love for their daughters.
“Todd is such an amazing father and friend. The girls are so lucky to have such an involved, dedicated and loving father,” said his wife. “The girls are his world and he would do anything for them.”
The Barretts, who friends say enjoy camping and dirtbiking, do everything together. The aggressive cancer, so prevalent the primary source is unknown, has only brought them closer together as a family. Diagnosed after Todd found a lump in his neck, the cancer is spreading quickly, according to Renee.
He was hospitalized for two weeks in July, but treatment was unsuccessful and he is currently back at the Abbotsford Cancer Centre for additional chemotherapy. While it has been a “very scary, sad time,” their attitude remains positive as they rely on each other for support.
“We take it one day at a time and enjoy all the family time we can. The girls are so young … they really don’t understand,” worries Renee. “We pray this one works wonders for Todd.”
Renee left her job of 14 years as a care aide for Tabor Home to oversee her husband’s treatment, and Todd has been unable to return to his work with Dynamic Windows and Doors, where he has been employed since 1999.
With both of them off work, Renee admits their mortgage and normal household bills have been a huge stress, but the hardest part is watching the man she loves suffer.
“He is normally so active, happy and full of energy. Since getting sick he is always in pain … but tries to put on a brave smile every day for us.”
Renee says she is extremely grateful for the help from their work, family and friends. However, Rempel and Houle are hoping that more can be done for the family. They set up a CIBC bank account this week to collect donations (Institute #010, Transit #08820, Account #87-24296, Name: Gloryann Houle TR Barrett).
Houle is calling on members of the Abbotsford business community to step forward with additional fundraising suggestions.
“We could use ideas. It breaks my heart that such terrible things can happen to such a young family.”