Candlelighters at Foxwood Farm

By Miriam King, Bradford Times

On Sunday, November 15, Foxwood Farm riding stable on the 13th Line of Bradford West Gwillimbury, opened its doors to Candlelighters Simcoe, a support group for parents of children diagnosed with cancer.

Stable owner Robyn Freer welcomed ten kids and their families from communities that included Innisfil, Oro-Medonte, Barrie and Huntsville, for a morning of grooming the horses, saddling up, and learning how to ride.

For most, it was the “first time they have touched a horse,” said Cheryl Gotthelf, Resource Development with Candlelighters. “We have some that are keen, and some that are a little nervous.”

Candlelighters Simcoe has been in operation for 25 years, with the goal of “Lighting the way for families affected by childhood cancer.”

“We run a bunch of different programs throughout the year,” Gotthelf said, from monthly Parent Support group meetings, to Art Therapy sessions for kids and teens, family social events, school and bereavement support, and a Christmas program that provides a gift basket for every family going through treatment, and during the first year post-cure.

“We support from the beginning, as long as the family needs it,” Gotthelf said, including some limited financial assistance, when needed, to ease the financial burden of cancer: “On average, a child's diagnosis costs $30,000,” she said, excluding loss of income, for taking time off to care for a child with cancer.

There are about 100 families from across Simcoe County, on Candlelighters' active list – about 35 currently in treatment.

“We're just a small organization. We rely entirely on community donations,” Gotthelf said, and the generosity of both individuals and businesses like Foxwood Farm, to make programs and services available.

As the kids had a riding lesson in the indoor ring, parents watched from the sidelines.

“This isn't something I'd ever be able to let her do. I have four kids – there isn't the budget,” said one mom, watching her daughter, in recovery from surgery for a brain tumor, riding confidently on horseback. “The wonderful thing about Candlelighters is they include the siblings too. A lot of organizations don't, and it affects them almost as much.”

Candlelighters is affiliated with Ontario Parents Advocating for Children with Cancer, and Childhood Cancer Canada. For more information, to become a member or make a donation, see or email