BY ANDREW SMITH
GOWANSTOWN – Rob and Charlotte Burnham have few words to express their gratitude for the outpouring of support following the tragic loss of their daughter Candace, save for one: Amazing.
“We’re amazed at how the community has come together and has supported us in every way,” Charlotte said. “We have an amazing community, absolutely amazing.”
Thirteen-year-old Candace passed away suddenly at their Gowanstown home Saturday, May 23, due to complications caused by her pacemaker and scar tissue around her heart. Despite being born with a complete heart block, Candace loved staying active and participating in sports as much as possible, Rob and Charlotte said. Candace was recently accepted to Camp Oki, a summer camp offered by the Hospital for Sick Children for kids with congenital heart disease, where she could participate in activities like rock climbing, water skiing and archery, which Rob says she excelled at.
“This was stuff she wasn’t allowed to do, but she could do it there because they were prepared if something happened,” Charlotte said. “It’s amazing they have something like that for children.”
The Burnham family moved to Gowanstown two years ago, which Rob and Charlotte said have been the two best years of their lives. Candace blossomed in the new community and enjoyed walking around the neighbourhood.
“This is where Candace wanted to be, she felt safe here,” Charlotte said. “She met most of the neighbours before we did when we moved in.”
Neighbour Marie Parsons recalls Candace as a “very vivacious, energetic and happy kid” and often saw her at the bus stop across from their home.
“We’d watch her at the bus stop in the morning and she’d be turning cartwheels,” Parsons said. “She just loved going to school.”
When Parsons received the news of Candace passing away, she felt like she needed to offer something to help alleviate the family’s emotional and financial stress.
“I just felt that this is a family that’s going to need support,” Parsons said. “Every which way, I care about what’s going to happen to the family and what they’re going to be going through.”
With the permission of The Burnham family, Parsons launched a GoFundMe account on Monday to help pay for funeral costs. In less than 24 hours, the account had surpassed $4,000.
“Once I shared this with the family, they were just dissolved with tears at how much people really care,” Parsons said. “The compassion and empathy in human nature is really quite astounding.”
The GoFundMe account for Candace can be found online at www.gofundme.com/vffh9w. A Canada Trust account is also being established for donations to The Burnham family.
Wallace Public School played an important part in Candace’s life as well, where she was able to overcome her experience being bullied and stand up for her fellow classmates when they themselves were bullied.
“Even when she was sick she wanted to go to school,” Rob said. “She wouldn’t stay home when she wasn’t feeling well, it was the most amazing thing to see,” Charlotte adds.
Charlotte also owes Candace’s happiness to her boyfriend Caden.
“He really made her grow too,” Charlotte said. “I’m glad he came into her life.”
Candace was looking forward to Grade 8 graduation in a few weeks, and had taken a selfie with one of the dresses she was trying on recently, something she did often according to her parents.
“No matter where we went she was doing selfies,” Rob said.
Despite the loss of their daughter, Rob is convinced Candace is not far away and she continues to watch over them.
“She was definitely our angel, she was a miracle child,” Charlotte says.