It was a year ago this past January 27 when Nori Wall passed away with medulloblastoma, or brain cancer. Nori gripped the hearts of people throughout Portage la Prairie during her battle, in which she relapsed three times, and doctors finally said nothing could be done.
Nori's mother Haleigh Wall says their time during treatments since November of 2019 saw Cancer Care Manitoba provide the family with gift cards, or small presents. That led to an effort they're organizing for others whose children are in the same situation.
"It would really, honestly help and it would just make our day better," says Wall. "We were lucky enough that we had a lot of community support here in Portage la Prairie, but a lot of the families in Winnipeg don't have that. They don't have Central Plains Cancer Services. They don't have just the small community feel. They don't have individual fundraisers. So, for them, to receive those gift cards would have some of their only help that they would have been able to get through their whole cancer journey with their children."
Wall explains that she and her husband Richard decided that for Noah's birthday this year, which is March 5th, they would collect gift cards and take them to Cancer Care Manitoba as donations for families. She adds this will allow people in these situations to at least have a little extra help, and it would be in honour of Nori.
"For me, I have this deep need to keep her name alive and keep her alive," notes Wall. "She was such a great kid and such a wonderful part of our lives. I just don't want her name to die with her. I want to make sure that we can continue to honour her for the rest of my life, at least. In the long run, I'd like to do something big and and maybe have a foundation or something. I just don't know where to start. So, this is where I know how to start."
She started a social media page where she updates how their family's doing, making note of their emotions, feelings, and similar things. Wall says she was amazed to see several hundred people following the page who showed their interest, which really impacted her,
"For individuals, I'm asking for $25 gift cards, and for individuals, that's not a lot," continues Wall. "But for a family who's going through this, that is a lot. If they can get groceries or any type of need that they have, it just really helps. A lot of parents, either one or both, have to take time off work or have to leave, and it's just financially very straining on parents to have children who have cancer."
Wall says any case and journey of a family through cancer is always horrible. However, when children are the concern, being so young and not having had to chance really live life at all, it's especially trying.
"She barely had a childhood because she was just sick all the time," says Wall. "I think that for children, it hits you really, really hard. It really makes you feel for these children. She was eight when she passed, but she was five when she was diagnosed. She was probably sick for at least six months beforehand that we just didn't really know. We were trying to find what was going on with her, and so she probably didn't feel well for a long time. And then she just didn't feel well again, ever."
Wall says Nori was incredible through it all. She explains she taught them so many lessons on bravery and selflessness.
"She cared about our feelings. She cared about what we were going through. She cared about everybody else. The nurse would say, 'Are you comfortable?' And she would say. 'Well, is this good for you?' She was really just a really special kid."
Her Facebook page is called Nori's Journey, and is open to the public.
"We started it initially because, at the first day of diagnosis, I had so many messages from family, friends, and acquaintances asking what was going on," adds Wall. "Especially in a small community, rumours start very quickly. So, I just thought, 'No, instead of getting thousands of messages from so many people, this is where you can find information.' It'll all be the truth. It'll all be from me, the source. Then everybody, at least, knows the same information that everybody else knows. I'm very open that nothing was a secret. We wanted people to know right from the very beginning that it was mostly for family and friends just so they could know what was going on. Then it just grew into this page that, for me, felt huge."
Wall shares that it was overwhelming to know people cared about Nori's story with all of the people who wanted to post something. She adds it became somewhat of a diary, and a place for her to release her feelings.
"And people cared. They listened, they gave good comments, and they responded to that," says Wall. "That was a place for them to hear and understand the cancer journey, which was so tragic. Cancer is a horrible thing. It's a horrible disease. And when you have a child who has it, it just seems to be so much more difficult and everybody rallies around."
Nori loved children and Wall shares something she'll never forget.
"The thing that resonates with me for this is that she would say that she was going to go to heaven and rock the babies," notes Wall. "So, doing something in her honour for other children seems very fitting, as well. Like I said, she probably would have given you her shirt off her back. She was spicy, but she was so caring and gentle. She has little cousins and loved every second of holding them and feeding them. She was just a very kind-hearted soul. I just want to do something for other families. I can't even express how hard it was as parents to not only hear that your child has cancer, but to hear it three times, that it's come back, and, 'There's nothing we can do.'"
Wall adds that without the support of Portagers, they likely would have lost their home.
"I just know that outside of this community, people don't have that, so I want to try to fill a little bit of that gap just to try to make someone else's day a little better. We will deliver the gift cards to Clinic 5 at Cancer Care Manitoba and the nurse will distribute them as the patients and families come in," explains Wall. "She'll know where to distribute what. It is a Nori's name, but that's about all they'll know. As a family member getting the gifts from cancer, you sometimes assume it was from families who lost children, but that was the last thing you wanted to think of. So, you really didn't think. You just thought of it as a nice gift. As the families receiving it, they probably will just receive it as a gift, because that's the last thing that any of those parents want to hear is that this is from a family who lost their child who was here a year ago, right in your shoes."
Lisa Voth is Nori's grandmother and adds that Haleigh has wonderful ideas, and likes to just a cause over the top.
"I knew that getting it out publicly, we may be able to reach more families than what are on the Facebook page, or those connected closely to us," says Voth. "Just putting the story out there, people will remember Nori. They will remember that story. I think it's just a call to say, 'Hey, let's help some more people. Let's just help some more people in Nori's name.' From my perspective, I know what those little gifts did for them, and helped them to just get additional groceries and to be able to get household needs that people just don't think about."
They will be posting pictures of the donations and let everyone people know about the progress on Nori's page.
A GoFundMe page was set up, reaching well over their intended goal of $10,000.