BY HEIDI ULRICHSEN
Leslie Slusar and Jamie Kyle worked together for 15 years at the Four Corners Shoppers Drug Mart store in Sudbury. Over the years, the two women became friends, supporting each other through the ups and downs of family life.
But last summer, Jamie, her husband David (who also worked at Shoppers), and their four young children packed their bags and moved to Sault Ste. Marie. Not long after the move, the couple's five-year-old daughter, Hannah, was diagnosed with leukemia.
Now Jamie drives her daughter to the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto every three weeks for chemotherapy treatment. She had to give up her new job at a Sault-area Shoppers store to care for Hannah, leaving the family short of cash.
?They aren't a wealthy family to begin with, and now Jamie isn't working and David has to take off a significant amount of time off too,? says Slusar. Travel expenses are also adding up to hard times for the family.
So the cashier manager and the rest of the Shoppers gang decided to help out their friends. Staff raffles and other initiatives at the South End store have already raised about $2,000, and Slusar hopes to add to that total by selling $10 Cooking with Hannah cookbooks filled with their favourite potluck recipes.
?I hope folks buy these books because the Kyle family deserves our help. They're very good people, and bad things sometimes happen to good people,? says Slusar, adding that the family is also being supported by several Sault-area fundraisers. ?Any money we make through this is a good thing.?
Hannah is a happy-go-lucky little girl who lights up any room she walks into, says Slusar. She enjoys playing dress-up with her two older sisters, Emma and Brenna, and her younger brother Braedan. The Kyle kids hate being separated when Hannah is undergoing chemotherapy treatment.
?I know she misses her sisters terribly and they miss her too,? she says.
But Jamie Kyle is a source of strength for her young family, says Slusar. ?Jamie's a peach. She's the strongest girl I know. She's doing better than me. We all have big hopes for Hannah,? she says, wiping away tears.
The family will be celebrating Christmas a little late this year because Hannah is getting chemotherapy treatment over the holidays. ?But Santa called and he can extend Christmas an extra day,? says Slusar.
So far, the girl is responding well to her chemotherapy treatment. She had been diagnosed with leukemia at the Sault Area Hospital in September after complaining of a persistent fever and pains in her lower body.
Hannah isn't in school right now, says Slusar, but is keeping up with her studies at home. Her pre-schooler brother Braeden goes with her when she travels to Toronto.
The Shoppers staff had originally printed 40 copies of Cooking with Hanna, but they quickly sold out. Right now, they are taking orders to do a second printing. It costs about $4 to print one book, but the other $6 goes to the Kyle family.
?Ever Christmas we adopt a family from the Children's Aid society to raise money for. This year, we just happen to know the family,? says Slusar.
While the cookbooks aren't exactly professional - some of the recipes are handwritten - Slusar says that's all part of their charm. ?There are a lot of typos,? she says. ?We aren't cooks either. But anybody who looks at a copy of the cookbook will see that they are right from the heart.?
To place an order for Cooking with Hannah, or to give a donation, phone 692-5905 or 524-5829.