Spirit of Giving

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An experience I will never forget

Kristin Wilton is a Mount Saint Vincent University public relations co-operative student at the IWK Health Centre Foundation.

Maria Panopalis, Kristin and a patient during the 30th Annual IWK Telethon for Children.

Maria Panopalis, Kristin and a patient during the 30th Annual IWK Telethon for Children.

Throughout my second work term at the IWK Foundation, the bulk of my responsibilities were focused on the planning and implementation of Telethon. 2014 was a big year for the IWK as it celebrated 30 wonderful years of the IWK Telethon for Children. On May 31 and June 1, 2014, a record-breaking $6,154,816 was raised thanks to the generosity of Maritimers. This shows Maritime commitment to the IWK and is a significant increase from the inaugural event in 1985 raising $649,000.

Being part of Telethon 30 was humbling. From scheduling vignettes with donors, patients and our partners at CTV Atlantic, to pre-produced stories and rover interviews, I was able to participate in the many aspects that bring Telethon to life.

As the days went on and the Health Centre turned into a live television studio, the excitement exhilarated. To kick off Telethon 30, the IWK Foundation hosted a live remote celebration with CTV Atlantic at the Health Centre. Many early founders, patients and caregivers highlighted special moments from the very first Telethon in 1985. I had the privilege to meet and learn from those who participated in the first Telethon, which was extremely rewarding and provided me with an appreciation of the connection these individuals had and continue to have to the IWK. The distinct transformation over the course of 30 years proves that the Health Centre is a priority for our patients and families throughout the Maritimes.

Another special addition to Telethon 30 was the #MyIWK campaign. Thanks to our partners at Bell Aliant, the #MyIWK campaign kept those involved in the magic of Telethon in the days leading up to the live broadcast. For every photo uploaded to Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #MyIWK, Bell Aliant donated $1 up to $30,000 to celebrate the 30th anniversary. Not only did Telethon 30 raise over $6 million but social media played a large part, reaching 12 million people world-wide. It’s a great feeling knowing that Maritimers continue to step up year after year to make a difference, offline and online.

As I end my time here at the IWK Foundation, I can’t help but reflect on my experiences. Being part of an organization that raises funds to better the care of our Maritime children is rewarding and thanks to my colleagues, is an experience I will never forget.

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An incredible day with an incredible family.

Since 1996, CTV Atlantic has proudly broadcast the IWK Telethon for Children and helped raised millions of dollars for the IWK Health Centre. Rachel Bower shares her experience of filming one of the remarkable stories that will be featured on this year’s Telethon broadcast. 

Steve&JoshMy role in the IWK Telethon for Children is story producer. It is a role I am fortunate to have as I get to meet many incredible children and their families.

Recently, CTV production camera operator, Steve Townsend and I travelled to Southern Nova Scotia to meet Joshua Cochrane and his mom Anne and sisters Chaya and Kate.

Josh is diagnosed with autism, Kawasaki disease, juvenile idiopathic arthritis and teeth malformation.

LightinglessonFrom the moment Josh and Steve met, they were inseparable. Josh was interested in how camera and lights worked, and Steve was happy to share his knowledge with his new friend.

Josh watches everything and quickly began to copy Steve.

After seeing how Steve set up the lights for his mom’s interview Josh set up the lights for his own interview. He helped Steve pick out beautiful scenic shots. When Steve, who is a master of lighting with found objects, was setting up for an interview Josh was right beside him asking him what he was doing.  At the end of the shoot, to Steve’s delight, Josh helped put the gear back into the CTV Production Truck. HelpinginTruck2

It was a pleasure to witness how well Josh and Steve interacted on this shoot.

To find out more about Joshua’s story tune into the 30th Annual IWK Telethon for Children broadcast live on CTV May 31 & June 1.

Make a gift to the IWK Telethon for Children.

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These Hands.

June 1st and 2nd was one for the record books! Spirits were soaring as once again, generous Maritimers stepped up for the IWK and declared it as a special place and an absolute priority for families. Thanks to the incredible generosity of our donors, we were able to raise $5,877,139.53 during our 29th Annual IWK Telethon for Children on CTV!

To add to the merriment, on Saturday evening we debuted “These Hands” – a very special video created in collaboration with Canadian Folk/Celtic singer-songwriter, Dave Gunning.  Direced by Scott Simpson of Playmaker Films, this video showcases the incredible strength and community inside the IWK Health Centre.

We are proud to announce that “These Hands”, co-written by Gunning and George Canyon, is the East Coast Music Awards 2013 Song of the Year! The song accompanies a children’s book by the same name, which teaches us that every person has the ability to be a hero of the human kind.  A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book supports the IWK Health Centre Foundation.

Thank you Dave Gunning for your incredible support and commitment to improving the lives of Maritime families who rely on the care of the IWK.

“I was excited to be involved with this project because of the great work that’s done by both the staff at the hospital and the Foundation,” says Gunning. “I’m very proud to have the song being used for such a great purpose.” 

Hope you enjoy the video, please feel free to share it!

Make a gift
to the IWK Health Centre Foundation.

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What being part of the IWK family means.

Mary Thibeault is the Phone Volunteer Trainer in Halifax for the 29th Annual IWK Telethon for Children on CTV. 

To me, Telethon means a time to recognize why we are here and what the IWK means to our community and to our families.

Mary Thibeault, Halifax Phone Volunteer Trainer and Hilary.

Mary Thibeault, Halifax Phone Volunteer Trainer and Hilary.

As a long time employee of the IWK in clinical practice, management and support roles, I have had the privilege of working with families and staff in both professional and volunteer roles. My first experience with Telethon was over 25 years ago as a staff nurse working in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where we shared stories that demonstrated the courage and passion of the most fragile patients and their families. At that time, as now, hearing how the IWK makes a difference to the lives of so many members of our Maritime community instills not only a sense of pride, but also a sense of significance.

I always believed it was important to share that sense of pride and to, in some way, give back what I could. So I started volunteering at the IWK Telethon, first as a telephone operator and eventually as the person responsible for insuring the hundreds of telephone volunteers are trained for their very important role. When my daughter was about three years old, I began bringing her along so that she could see the show and experience the excitement of a television production. I would have her with me during training sessions as my assistant and she would dutifully point to the different parts of a giant pledge form as I would describe how they needed to be completed.

She continued to come with me until one year, at age 11, she decided she had better things to do on a Sunday afternoon and went to a friend’s house instead of coming with me. So I went along conducting the training sessions solo. At the end of one of the sessions a long time telephone volunteer approached me and asked me where my daughter was. He said he had so enjoyed seeing her grow up over the years, it was an important part of Telethon for him, and he missed seeing her that year. I was deeply touched that he had remembered and at that moment began to realize what Telethon means to so many people.

I went home and told my daughter the story. She hasn’t missed a Telethon since. When she turned 13 we decided she was old enough to have her own job at Telethon and she was thrilled when she received her first official Telethon Volunteer name tag. Now, every year, she works as a “runner” on the set taking completed pledge forms to their appropriate location. The IWK Telethon has helped her understand the importance of philanthropy and how just a little contribution of time can mean so much to our community. It is a lesson I could never have taught her myself and one that I am extremely grateful for. That is what being part of the IWK family means. We help make a difference to our community and they help make a difference to us.

Make a gift to the 29th Annual IWK Telethon for Children on CTV.

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Not your average classroom setting.

CJ Studer is the Athletic Director at Athena Consolidated School in Summerside, PEI, 2012 Big Fish Winners.

Athena Consolidated School accepting their Big Fish banner during Telethon Weekend in PEI.

The staff and students of Athena Consolidated School in Summerside, PEI walk down their hallways that are flooded with shamrocks.  It is St. Patrick’s Day and all are decked out in shades of green.  But St. Pat’s is not what they are celebrating.

Every year around March 17th, brave staff and students shave their heads for what they lovingly call St. Shaverick’s Day!  The shavees collect money from friends and family in order to donate 100% of the funds to the IWK Foundation.  The entire school packs the gym bleachers while Irish gigs and reels blast from the speakers.  The nervously excited students, who wish to have their heads shaved, sit in the middle of the gym and get sheared as the kids from kindergarten to Grade 9 laugh, clap, and stomp their feet.  It is truly a sight to be seen.

The IWK has touched thousands of families in the Maritimes, and the Athena family is so proud to support their efforts.  Like many island schools, some of Athena’s students would not be here without the knowledge, expertise, and care given by all associated with the IWK.

The children quickly learn what it feels like to be with no hair, but more importantly, they learn the value of philanthropy and empathy.  They get a small glimpse of what those battling cancer and undergoing chemotherapy treatments experience.  They also receive the intrinsic reward of giving to others.  That is a lesson that is hard to teach in an average classroom setting.

It has been said that one should never respect men merely for their riches, but rather for their philanthropy; we do not value the sun for its height, but for its use. The staff and students of Athena embody this every St. Shaverick’s Day.  They are true leaders in the community.

The IWK Foundation’s Big Fish Program recognizes the top fundraising school from each region. If your school is named Big Fish for your region (Mainland Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island) your school will be awarded:

  • A $1,000 gift card donated by Walmart
  • An opportunity to make a live cheque presentation during Telethon weekend on CTV
  • A flag that can be proudly displayed in your school

Do you have what it takes to become a Big Fish?  Register your school today!

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Telethon is my way of giving back

Mike MacKenzie is the IWK Operations Committee Chair in PEI for the 2012 IWK Telethon for Children on CTV.

Mike MacKenzie,IWK Telethon Operation Committee Chair in PEI.

Telethon weekend is such a special time of year. I just love being involved so much, and look forward to it each year. I joined the IWK team in 2005 as a Greeter and the year after that I accepted the invitation to chair our PEI operations committee.  This year, my entire family volunteered including my wife Cathy who lead the youth celebration, my two sons Jakob and Reilly who stepped in to help with what ever was needed throughout the week-end and my daughter Maria who organized the cake decorating booth. 

The IWK has a special place in our hearts because two of our children, Jakob and Maria, were born at the IWK. My wife Cathy, was flown to the IWK with our daughter before she was born. Thankfully, both experiences were uneventful.

I have traveled several times to the IWK as a paramedic over the last 20 years, with worried and nervous kids and their parents. Telethon is my way of giving back. Most of my experiences with the Health Center have been very happy ones, but there have been some not so nice ones as well. It’s so hard to know that not all patients get to go home, but helping with the Telethon each year is my way to make sure that the funds needed can be raised to help as many families as we can. It means so much to me to be able to meet the patients who have been Champion Children as well as patients who have been treated and come back to visit us at the PEI Telethon site each year; there is no other feeling like it.

Thank you all for having me as your chair and if you don’t mind, I would kind of like to be involved again next year!

Make a gift to the IWK Health Centre Foundation.

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Liam’s Story and the 28th Annual IWK Telethon for Children on CTV

Rob MacCormick is a Senior Customer Success Manager of Flagship Accounts for Salesforce Radian6. He lives and breathes Social whether for work, family or playtime.  Thank you to Radian6 and Rob for sharing this blog post with us.

My son Liam’s life was forever changed in March 2011.

While on our family vacation in Jamaica Liam was stung by a box jellyfish, one of the world’s most venomous creatures.

As a result of that sting Liam spent a month in the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Not much fun being the first case in Canada, there were so many unknowns in his treatment. That treatment continues today after being diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.

I felt totally helpless like any parent would watching my son in uncontrollable, inconsolable pain. All I wanted was to take that pain from him but I couldn’t.

What I could do however was turn to my family and friends online. Likes, comments and shares went a long way helping us all. Liam inspired a lot of people with his bravery and continues to do so today. One thing that he did on his own was to offer to help give back to the IWK.

I’m thrilled to share that Liam’s story is one of the profile stories being aired during The 28th Annual IWK Telethon for Children on CTV.

We are so thankful for the care we received and continue to receive from the IWK. It would be great if you could take a few minutes and learn about how the IWK helped us like so many other families in our region.

What would be greater still is if you could help us share Liam’s story and raise awareness about the telethon, so that the IWK can continue helping families like ours. #liamsstory #IWKTelethon 

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Journey to Telethon

Nick and Lori Matheson are this year’s honorary Telethon Chairs for the IWK Telethon for Children. Eight years ago, their daughter Maryn was diagnosed with liver cancer at the tender age of two.

Nick Matheson and his daughter, Maryn.

It has been eight years since we first awoke to the nightmare of childhood cancer and it seems like Maryn’s wonderful story of recovery has been told far and wide. It is, of course, a story that we are happy to share to thank those who made it possible, to raise awareness of the challenges kids and families face, and to increase support for the medical advances that make miracles happen.

As we celebrate Maryn’s health, we are also acutely aware of the many kids who have not been as fortunate. When Lori and I were asked to be honorary co-chairs of this year’s Telethon, my one hesitation was knowing that there are so many other stories out there to be told. We acknowledge that many, many people in our community – and beyond – have been touched by the IWK and hope to also honor your stories in sharing our own.

Those long days on the oncology floor, worried-filled nights at Ronald McDonald House, and heart-in-the-throat hours outside an operating room, were endured through contact with other patient families. There’s no secret handshake, but there is definitely a deep and meaningful connection with parents who have walked a similar path. While many people say they can’t imagine what it would be like for their child to be sick, every parent whose child needs the IWK knows the reality all too well. Truth be told, there are days that it is overwhelming. In my experience, it was not so much dealing with Maryn’s illness as sometimes feeling crushed by the endless demand for help and healing. Seeing kids suffer seems so unfair. I recall almost shutting down to some of the tragic circumstances we encountered. When we returned from Ontario where Maryn had her transplant, I was completely disheartened that the entire oncology unit was full and that the names and faces were mostly unfamiliar to me. Somehow I thought that Maryn’s recovery might be a victory against cancer. It was clear, however, that the battle continued. The doctors, nurses, researchers, administrators, maintenance teams, and so on, who wage this war day in and day out are heroic and truly worthy of support. Amazing developments in patient care and cures are happening daily. Gratitude and hope are great motivators.

What could be move motivating than seeing a child hooked up to an IV pole dancing on her bed or riding his skateboard down the hall? What could be more moving than a girl with a big bright smile and even brighter hair beaming with joy at feeling sunshine on her face? Kids never give up. They accept what comes and roll with the punches. When they fall, they get back up and keep going. Sure, they need love and support and guidance, but their resilience holds lessons for us all. They live in the now. Even if it sucks, they know it won’t last forever and they are always ready to surf the next wave.

This week, the wave we have been riding all year toward Telethon reaches its peak. Our entire family is so pleased to have the opportunity to participate and give back in some small way. We’ve felt honored to speak on behalf of families at various events and realize how personal connections express thanks and inspire sharing. The IWK is so much more than a hospital to us. It is a huge part of the fabric of our family. It is a symbol of all the good that can come from adversity and all the people who have helped along the way. We hope you will join us in celebrating the many stories of trial and triumph this weekend. Please share your own and let everyone know what the IWK means to you.

The Matheson Family

The IWK Telethon for Children is June 2 & 3, 2012 broadcasting live on CTV Atlantic.

Make a gift to the IWK Telethon.

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We believe in the IWK.

Theresa Rogers is a Coordinator in the Change Management Office at the IWK Health Centre. In addition, she is also the Chair of the Halifax Telethon Committee.

Theresa Rogers, Cooordinator in the Change Management Office and acting Chair of the Halifax Telethon Committee.

Every year in January, a group of dedicated IWK Health Centre and Foundation staff begin to meet monthly along with some of our favourite supporters from the community. We meet because we all have something in common – a passion for the IWK Health Centre.

Our small way of giving back is by planning the logistics of Telethon, even when it is months away. With so much to prepare for, it’s all hands on deck. Luckily, we always have a wonderful group of individuals who get things done and make this crazy journey a great deal of fun

To the IWK we are known as the Telethon Operations Committee; privately, we consider ourselves the ‘never take ourselves seriously’ group. We see Telethon as an opportunity to work with great colleagues who have equal affinity for a wonderful event. We come from all corners of the Health Centre – Women’s Health Program, Learning and Organizational Development, Nutrition Services, Plant Maintenance, Telecommunications, IT, The IWK Foundation, Sigma Chi Fraternity . . the list goes on.

Even though we are part of a team, we all have our individual roles. Our responsibilities include coordinating the telephone volunteers, acting as liaisons for the Telethon’s entertainers, feeding and ‘nurturing’ the volunteers, pledge verification , postal services, shuttle services (traveling HRM in pursuit of cakes and catering), tabulation (the big numbers on the screen), site management (transforming the inside of the IWK into a live television broadcasting studio) and computer input (your name on the bottom of the television screen. This team is a well-oiled, well-fired machine – in other words, you wouldn’t believe how much gets accomplished by having so much fun.

We believe in the IWK. We are passionate, love what we do and we have lots of fun in the process. Please join us June 2 and 3, 2012 for the 28th Telethon for Children on CTV.

Make a gift to the IWK Health Centre Foundation.


May is for Miracles.

This month is the Miracle Month of May! You may notice that some of your local stores have been selling and displaying the iconic red and yellow Children’s Miracle Network balloons, in an effort to raise money for children’s hospitals across North America.

Here in the Maritimes, funds raised from the purchase of these balloons are donated to the IWK Health Centre, a proud member of Children’s Miracle Network.

A big thank you to everyone who has purchased a Miracle Balloon! We would also like to take the time to recognize the efforts of employees who have been diligently asking customers to donate.In some stores, there are even some amazing balloon displays cropping up. Vikki Barthe, Walmart employee in Truro, Nova Scotia, has turned their balloons into fantastic wall art.

Dora the Explorer on display at the Walmart store in Truro, Nova Scotia.

The Russell Lake Kent store has also been busy decorating their walls.

Miracle Balloons proudly displayed at the Russel Lake Kent store in Truro, Nova Scotia.

Miracle Balloons can be purchased at the following stores in the Maritimes:

  • Walmart
  • Costco
  • Aramark
  • Kent
  • Co-op

Please give generously and support the IWK Health Centre by purchasing a Miracle Balloon. Your small change will make a big difference!

If you notice a fantastic display of Miracle Balloons in your area, please share them with us on Facebook. We’d love to see them!

The IWK Telethon for Children on CTV is broadcasting live Saturday, June 2 and Sunday June 3, 2012. Be a part of the action by signing up to be an IWK Superstar.


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