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Community rallies to raise funds for family of triplets

African Nova Scotian Music Association organizes benefit concert for Lee family

Owen and Larissa Lee spend time with two of their triplet girls: Imani and Nylah. (The other triplet, Aria, is not pictured.)   Nzingha Millar

A Dartmouth couple, who became known last year for having five children under the age of five, are getting some help from their friends and neighbours.  

Larissa and Owen Lee were surprised after community members approached them last month with news that a fundraising concert would be held Tuesday to help the family with growing expenses.

The Lees have their hands full with triplet girls Imani, Aria and Nylah. They’re still adjusting to the “curve ball” they were thrown when the doctor announced their two sons Ayden,4, and Ethan,2, would have three new siblings instead of one.

“I was in total shock; I still am,” says Larissa Lee. “It doesn’t seem real even though they’re here.”

“At first you’re thinking, I have to get a car seat,” Owen Lee says. “No, I have to get three car seats.  It was overwhelming; it felt like there was not enough we could do to be prepared.”

The benefit concert at Alderney Landing in Dartmouth starts at 7 p.m. It is a joint effort by the African Nova Scotian Music Association (ANSMA) and community members from Cherry Brook and North Preston. It will feature performers such as Cyndi Cain, Reeny Smith, Asia & NuGruv, Carson Downey and the Nova Scotia Mass Choir, of which Owen Lee is the musical director.

ANSMA president Lou Gannon says the idea occurred to him when brainstorming how the office could give back to Owen Lee. As an artist and songwriter, he has made a significant contribution to the municipality’s music community.

“Here’s a person who is a musician,” Gannon explains. “He’s a pretty neat guy, and any time you ask him to do something, nine times out of 10 he’s there.”

All proceeds from the concert will go towards the Lee family.   ANSMA

Since the triplets joined the family in December, the Lees have already made significant changes to their lifestyle. This included upsizing from an apartment to a house, coping with lack of sleep and making trips to see Aria, who is still in the neonatal intensive care unit.

A 2015 update to a 2011 report by MoneySense.ca puts the average cost of raising a child in Canada to the age of 18 at $240,588. This number works out to $13,366 per child, per year. When multiplied by five, it comes to an overall estimate of $1,202,940, before factoring in the cost of college or university.  

The Lee family has already incurred some of these expenses by purchasing items that are essential to caring for triplets, such as a bottle warmer and infant swings.

“I felt like I was a first-time mom all over again,” says Larissa Lee.  “Having multiples is just a different world altogether.”

Thankfully, the family has already received an outpouring of support from friends and family.

“When people see what’s going on in your life they always have lovely, encouraging things to say,” says Owen Lee. “What really drives home support is when people come and cook, push a broom or help change diapers. That really speaks volumes to the love and support that is in the community and we find it’s been so potent.”

Triplet girls Nylah (top left), Aria (bottom left) and Imani (right) have reached their two-month milestone.   Nzingha Millar

Larissa Lee has been documenting their journey with the “Triplees” on Facebook using the hashtags #Triplees and #5under5.

“I didn’t know any other black families with triplets; it’s important for people to know that this can happen here,” says Larissa Lee. “Everyone knows it takes a village to raise a child, where we have five under five, we are literally using all of our resources and the community has been so open because we’re so willing to share.” 

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