Susi Vander Wyk

Susi Vander Wyk

Chilliwack go-getter vying for Walmart Mom of the Year

Chilliwack mom Susi Vanderwyk is trying to help other families just like hers by winning the contest

Chilliwack mom Susi Vanderwyk remembers being in tears.

She was both shocked and humbled by the glowing nomination for the contest submitted by her niece Katrina Clow.

Vanderwyk is now one of 20 candidates in the Walmart Canada’s Mom of the Year contest vying for their charities, with online voting on until Aug.1.

“While my first instinct is to hide behind someone’s skirts,” she wrote on her Mom of the Year Facebook page headlined ‘Meet Fun Mom Extraordinaire Susi Vanderwyk’. “I desperately love that my nomination can bring substantial funds to Families of SMA Canada, a charity that so many families rely on as a lifeline, for not only hope of a cure, but desperately needed support today.”

She and husband Bruce have three kids: Dexter, Holli and Amy.

When Holli was just two she was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 2, or SMA.

After a year of struggling blindly, Susi started a support group for parents called EPIC, for families dealing with a range of disabilities.

There were charity dinners and dances to raise funds, says her niece, and her aunt run a summer camp for the past 13 years, inviting families who have children with SMA from across the globe to join them.

If she makes it into the Top 8, it’s $10,000 for the charity, if she wins, it’s $100,000.

“But tell people, they’re not voting for me,” she said humbly. “It’s for SMA Canada.”

As well as organizing the camp, Susi and Bruce host events on their dairy farm, throughout the year. They have Easter egg hunts, Christmas parties and camp fires, for families with children who have SMA.

But that wasn’t quite enough.

A couple of years ago when the president of Families of SMA Canada stepped down, Susi stepped up again for her community, accepting the role as president of the nationwide charity.

The group is actually a “lifeline” for families of children with SMA, who often feel like their lives are shattered post-diagnosis, and suddenly alienated from everyone else.

“You can have compassion and understanding, but you just don’t get it the way other SMA parents get it.”

They send out a care package with lots of info to parents on how to handle the most confounding questions.

“The biggest thing that comes out of that package is the feeling that they’re not alone,” she said.

Some things she does only her family knows, says her daughter Holly.

It’s quite the list she enumerates. Don’t try to say it all in one breath!

“She has been our school PAC president for several years, tutored kids with learning challenges, donated anonymously to underprivileged families at Christmas with gifts on door steps, donated to teen mom programs, sat up for many nights with parents of children who were dying at Canuck Place, help my brother and I start a charity, has taught us kids the meaning of compassion and giving for raising Christmas gifts for underprivileged teens, gives food to families in need, donated to independent living teens, sent equipment and supplies to third world countries, gives food to the homeless, and sponsored children.

“However with all of this said, her main focus is helping families affected by Spinal Muscular Atrophy.

“Her greatest wish is not to be recognized herself, but to win $100,000.00 for Families of SMA Canada would be a wonderful gift to so many families by helping to support them and pay for research to find a cure.”

Check out her page and put her into the Top 8 by voting at http://www.momoftheyear.ca/mom/?mom_id=41883

jfeinberg@theprogress.comTwitter.com/chwkjourno