A Labour of Love for Vilma Gallina

Necklaces of hope for those living with cancer

By Kristian Partington

For Vilma Gallina, the path to hope in the face of cancer is woven one necklace at time. Vilma knows all too well that when it comes to cancer, few people – if any – can say that the disease has not affected their life in one way or another. So she does what she can through a “labour of love” by weaving together ladder yarn into Necklaces of Hope, which she sells as part of a fundraising effort started by her friend, Sue Bernier, in 2007. 

The bulk of the funds are used to support Wellspring Niagara – a supportive community for those living with cancer that has helped countless people and families in the region cope with life after a cancer diagnosis - yet from Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto to individual families, the money may be used whereever it is needed. 

Vilma is one of more than 100 “Happy Hookers” working to support Sue’s efforts and to date she has raised more than $17,000 – one five-dollar necklace at a time. Since moving to the Village of Tansley Woods little more than a year ago, she has sold more than 900 necklaces.

“I’m quite a sales lady,” Vilma says with a laugh, but when the money is being used for such a worthy cause, it makes for an easy sell,  she adds, especially when the necklaces are quite becoming.

“They are very attractive and the ladies are having a great time wearing them,” she says. “They sell themselves,” and from the doctor’s office to the hairdresser’s, the entire village has been supportive of her efforts.

Mike Killip, the village’s director of hospitality, for example, hosted a recent dinner party and bought several necklaces to offer guests as a gift, Vilma says. It’s this kind of support that emboldens her generous spirit and keeps her busy.

Before coming into Tansley Woods, however, her time had been occupied with the care of her husband as he battled illness, so her fundraising efforts had slowed. Moving into the village reignited her quest to help Sue raise $1 million.

“We started with 25 and they were gone in 20 minutes,” Vilma recalls of her first dip into the Tansley Woods market. As she thinks about the community around her and the support she finds in the village, she swells with gratitude. “I just love it,” she says. “It’s a beautiful place.”

Vilma says she looks forward to inviting a speaker from Wellspring to share some insight into how the funds raised are used to support people in the Niagara Region who are living with cancer. In the meantime, it’s one necklace at a time in Vilma’s labour of love.