Community rallies behind local family

The North Fork Community will be hosting a barn dance to help a local family.

They say you can tell who your real friends are when things aren’t going well. For the owners of Value Drug Mart, Carol and Dave Lajoie, it’s clear to see they have plenty of friends throughout the area.

Dave Lajoie is battling cancer in an Edmonton hospital, and the stress of expenses—while operating a full-service drug store—are proving overwhelming.

The family calls the North Fork area home, as did Carol’s parents for many years. It was where Carol grew up, and where she returned with her own family.

Now members of the North Fork Community Club are rallying behind the family by hosting an old-fashioned barn dance to raise money to help with expenses through this difficult time.

The barn dance takes place on Saturday, June 28 at 6 p.m. at the Brown Creek Community Hall and will feature square dancing with live band YOMADA as well as a silent auction and a bake sale.

“We were thinking of doing something and we hadn’t done anything in the community for awhile,” said Tanis Paccini, one of the organizers. “The idea of doing a barn dance came up and we also knew that we wanted to do something for Dave and Carol. We figured this would be a great opportunity to do something fun for the community and help out a local family.”

Paccini said Carol’s mother Jean is still an active member in the North Fork club. She adds that Carol and Dave have always been very supportive of the club’s events and have often donated items.

Paccini says that the barn dance will feature square dancing with YOMADA (Young Old-Time Music and Dance Association) from Victoria.

The band features one-time local boy Damian Ritchie, she said. “The band comes with a dance caller who teaches all in attendance what to do, so no matter your dancing experience it should be a great time for the whole family. It’s going to be a high energy, happy fun family event. It’s going to be great fun.”

Tickets are available from any club member, or at WD Sheetmetal and at the Gazette office as well as the door. Suggested donation is $10 per person or $20 for the whole family. All ages are welcome.

All money raised will go to help the Lajoie family with travel costs and medical expenses.

The Lajoies have owned and operated Value Drug Mart in downtown Grand Forks for 18 years. Carol has been actively involved with the local chamber of commerce and became the first chair of the Grand Forks Downtown Business Association.

In October 2012, Dave was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma. He received treatment and was doing much better but then in February he became sick with pneumonia.

“At that time they were able to tell that his cancer had come back,” said Carol. “He is presently in Edmonton receiving treatment for the cancer. He has received therapy including chemotherapy. He is currently going through the process of getting a stem cell transplant using his own stem cells.”

Rather than struggle trying to operate the drug store as well find a temporary pharmacist, the Lajoies made the tough decision to shut down the store.

“We were looking at Dave being gone for a year,” she said. “It’s difficult to get relief pharmacists and they’re very expensive. It left me in the position of having to manage this business by myself, worry about bringing in pharmacists, and look after two small children.”

The Lajoies made the decision to avoid a lengthy sale process. The pharmacy was sold to Extra Foods. A short time after, the photo lab was sold to Neighbours Computers.

“That was the quickest way to do it,” said Carol. “If we’d have gone to market, who knows how long it would have taken.”

Carol is appreciative of the efforts made by the North Fork Community Club with putting on the barn dance and helping out the family.

“All the time I’ve lived in Grand Forks, I’ve lived up the North Fork,” said Carol. “It’s a really close knit community up there. One of the ladies up there actually approached my mother about the barn dance and asked if Dave and I would be okay with it. Dave and I talked about it and were very humbled and honoured that the community would want to do this for us.”

Carol adds that the community has been “amazing” with all their support.

“We really appreciate all the cards and the well wishes we’ve got and some of the great things people have done like bring food, gifts and helping out with the kids,” she said. “It’s been pretty incredible, the support we’ve had from the community.”