Spirit of Giving


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From the bottom of my heart – thank you!

Boy reading a card

Tristan Gallant reads a congratulatory card with his mom, from one of his supporters.

As a Mom, you hope you never in your life hear the words ‘Your child has cancer.’ The reality is, many of us do hear these words at some point in life. And then begins the journey of treatment, sleepless nights worrying about and watching over your child, and hope and prayers. That journey – if you live in the Maritimes – ultimately involves the IWK Health Centre working with your local hospital to deliver the best possible care for your child.

Just three years ago my son, Tristan Gallant, was diagnosed with Leukemia. Today, thanks to the IWK and immeasurable support from family, friends, colleagues, schools, and businesses, locally and across Canada,  Tristan is a happy and healthy ten-year-old boy. When I was asked if he would be this year’s Change Bandit Hero for the 103.9 MAX and K 94-5 FM Cares for Kids IWK Radiothon, I was honoured. Tristan was very excited about his important role, and got busy right away telling all his friends and helping us spread the word about his goal to raise $15,000 to support the most urgent priorities at the IWK.

The Radiothon was held at Champlain Place last week – and when we found out the Change Bandits raised a whopping $24,594.12, we realized more than ever how much this community supports Tristan and the IWK! We extend a heartfelt thanks to everyone who supported Tristan’s Change Bandit efforts, and special thanks to the following:

  • Big sister Jasmine J
  • Moncton Hospital
  • Claude D. Taylor School for sock hop, hat day, and lassoing loot!
  • All schools in Anglophone East School District for a very successful casual day!
  • Riverview Lions Club for lassoing loot!
  • Champlain Place, 103.9 MAX FM and 94-5 FM for supporting and raising IWK awareness
  • Atlantic Superstore and all other local Radiothon sponsors
  • Uncle Wayne Gallant for using his gift of music to raise awareness for the IWK and ‘drum up support’ (literally) for Tristan’s fundraising.
  • Tristan – for being our hero all the time, and for helping so many other children at the IWK through your beautiful personality, bright smile, and remarkable fundraising! We love you Tristan! 

Sincerely,
Debi Gallant
(Tristan’s mom!)

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Change Makers – Jacob

This article is a series of three, written by Tom Mason for the Fall 2013/Winter 2014 issue of Izaak Magazine – an in-depth, behind the scenes, all-access publication highlighting the incredible, everyday happenings at the IWK Health Centre. A stay at the hospital can be tough, but for some exceptional young people, it’s also a time to grow , gain strength and learn about who they are. 

Jacob Hamilton

Jacob Hamilton

For Jacob Hamilton, paying it forward means finding strength in his own life. At 19, Jacob has been through more than most people his age. He’s already struggled with mental illness, and the stigma that surrounds it, for several years.

Jacob spent four months in the IWK inpatient mental health unit starting at age 17. He endured weeks of difficult medication changes, missed out on family and school events, even spending his birthday and the days leading up to Christmas in the hospital. Through it all, the IWK staff was there to help him, at times becoming almost part of his extended family. “They even took part in Christmas activities with me,” he says.

Today Jacob uses his own experiences to help other young people suffering with mental illness. He volunteers with the IWK Foundation and has worked to raise money for a new inpatient mental health unit for the hospital that will offer much improved care space for those with acute mental illness requiring hospitalization at the IWK. He speaks out to help improve adolescent mental health care in Nova Scotia, and he advocates for young people, to help them overcome the stigma that so often goes with mental illness.

“Mental illness is a disease like any other,” he says. “There’s nothing to be ashamed of, and there’s always hope. There are a lot of youth out there dealing with these issues. They need to know how they can access mental health care.”

He’s also attending Dalhousie University, working on a science degree and planning to major in neuroscience, microbiology and immunology. Jacob recently received a $40,000 scholarship to help him pay for university and he’s doing well with his studies, but he still deals with his illness every day. “I have good days and bad days,” he says. The hours he gives back as a mental health volunteer are one of the ways he copes. “I do it as a way to give back to the IWK. I lost a lot of time in my life because of my illness. I lost a year of school. The IWK helped me get better. They helped me get back to real life.”

Jacob says that people with mental illness need someone in their corner to help them get proper treatment in their most difficult days. That’s what motivates him to work so hard. “They need to fight for the right care, and the irony is they really aren’t equipped to fight,” he says. “There are a lot of patients who can’t speak about their problems, but I don’t mind speaking out.”

This story and many exciting others are available for FREE though Izaak Magazine’s fully interactive mobile app, available for download on the iTunes Newstand and Google play. You can also read Izaak magazine online through your desktop computer.


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Change Makers – Sonja

This article is a series of three, written by Tom Mason for the Fall 2013/Winter 2014 issue of Izaak Magazine – an in-depth, behind the scenes, all-access publication highlighting the incredible, everyday happenings at the IWK Health Centre. A stay at the hospital can be tough, but for some exceptional young people, it’s also a time to grow , gain strength and learn about who they are. 

Sonja Weilgart-Whitehead

Sonja Weilgart-Whitehead

At the age of 18, Sonja Weilgart-Whitehead is already an old hand at talking to the media. The Herring Cove teenager was just 15 when she spearheaded a media campaign that focused attention on evacuation policies at Halifax Schools – a campaign that changed those policies for students with mobility issues.

Sonja has quadriplegic cerebral palsy, a condition that comes with significant mobility challenges. “My high school had an evacuation policy that said they couldn’t carry disabled persons out of the building because it would risk injuring the person responsible for carrying the,” she says. “Instead, we were supposed to go to a designated safe area and wait for the fire department.” But the designated safe room in Sonja’s high school was located right above a propane tank, with furniture blocking the only window that rescue personnel could use to access it. “I know that if my school ever wet up in flames, I was going to be toast.”

I was a situation that Sonja had no intention of ignoring. She and her mother contacted the media and began a series of interviews to shed light on the topic. The campaign immediately caught the attention of Nova Scotia cabinet ministers Ramona Jennex and Marilyn Moore who offered her an apology and set out to change the school policy. “They changed it for everyone in the province,” she says. “It means a lot, even though I was almost ready to graduate. With the old policy, it was like they were saying my life wasn’t as valued as the other students.”

Sonja is used to overcoming challenges. Her first extended stay at the IWK began the day she was born, when she was 18 months old. She’s made many trips to the hospital since then. “Over the last six years I’ve been getting a lot better because of a phenomenal surgery that the IWK gave me. Now I can walk without tangling by feet, without being crumpled over. I can swim a lot better too. It’s forever changed by life.”

Today, Sonja is studying for her Bachelor of Arts (honours) degree at Carleton University in Ottawa, and received the Robbie and Jean Shaw Scholarship. She plans to go on to become a lawyer advocating for people with disabilities. She chose the university because of its unique program for physically challenged students – a program that includes 24/7 attendant services and full wheelchair accessibility. She is also nationally-classified para-swimmer on the Carleton varsity swim team and involved in horseback riding, sailing, skiing and rock climbing.

This story and many exciting others are available for FREE though Izaak Magazine’s fully interactive mobile app, available for download on the iTunes Newstand and Google play. You can also read Izaak magazine online through your desktop computer.


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Your support REALLY makes a difference.

National Philanthropy Day, on November 15th , is an especially meaningful day to the IWK Foundation.  It allows us to recognize and celebrate our donors for their year-round philanthropy in support of the IWK. The following is written by Brenda Murchison, mom to IWK patient, Parker.

Parker at the IWK Health Centre

Parker at the IWK Health Centre

People often ask me how I felt when I learned my then 8-year-old son, Parker, had cancer. I was in the emergency room; it was a rainy afternoon.  An amazingly kind doctor arrived to speak with me.  He did what all doctors do, opened with small talk, asked a few questions and did a physical exam on Parker.    As he spoke, I looked at his identification tag and one word stood out: “Oncology”.

Instantly, I felt numb and panicked…as if the ceiling was going to cave in.

“No!” I thought to myself. “Parker is such a cool kid. He loves to read, curl, ski and play volleyball & lacrosse.  He’s kind and polite.  How can this happen to him?”

As reality set in, I felt an aching pain all over, as I realized what my little boy would have to endure to heal his body.  Tests. Needles. Medication. Physical weakness. Loss of his soft, curly hair. Nausea.

Somehow, my husband Bruce and I knew we needed to pull ourselves together and make the best of an awful situation.  That helped us set the tone for the next three-and-a-half years of Parker’s treatment.

Bruce, Parker, Carter and Brenda Murchison

Bruce, Parker, Carter and Brenda Murchison

This journey has been as much about healing our whole family as it was about healing Parker.  It has helped us focus on what’s really important in life.  Our priorities shifted because we became intimately aware of a whole new world…the world of sick kids, cancer and amazing people, including donors like you.

Recently, Parker began his 12th and final round of chemotherapy.  He spent the day in the newly renovated oncology outpatient clinic on the sixth floor, hooked up to two smart pumps and wrapped in warm blankets from the blanket warmer.  He was entertained by his good friend Buddington, our Therapeutic Clown before drifting off to sleep attached to a new anesthesia machine.  For the first time, I had a real appreciation of donor impact – that’s because the renovation of our oncology unit, the purchase of smart pumps and anesthesia machine and funding for Buddington were all donor funded.  Parker was surrounded by the generosity of complete strangers from all around the Maritimes.  In essence, my son was surrounded by the generosity of complete strangers who simply wanted him to be well.

Parker Murchison.

Parker Murchison.

As Parker’s treatment was nearing its end, I realized my IWK journey was just beginning.  I felt compelled to give back. Like many other families who experience the IWK, I wished I had a million dollars to give. Instead, I was fortunate to begin working for the IWK Foundation, with donors like you, who are helping families like mine.  I began witnessing the outpouring of generosity of donors from around the Maritimes – all to help women and children who need the IWK.  I realized the IWK environment I had come to know over the past three years would not be what it is today without donors like you.

Parker completed his treatment on September 15th and is living a great life.  It is an honour for me to write this message on National Philanthropy DayYour support REALLY makes a difference.  Donors like you have made the IWK Health Centre exceptional.  Thank you for caring and for giving.

I hope you enjoy this video of Parker thanking donors like you.  Needless to say I am extremely proud!

~ Brenda


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Playing safe in the snow.

Julie Harrington is a coordinator at the Child Safety Link Child Safety Link, a Maritime-wide children’s injury prevention program based at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

008Now that the storm is over and we are all (mostly) “dug out,”  many Maritime children are now gazing out their windows at a very tempting sight—high, fluffy, white snow banks and snow piles as far as the eye can see. While this major snowfall has been a major pain for many adults (i.e. extra shoveling and traffic jams), children see it as a great time to climb, build and slide on mountains of white stuff.

Parents love seeing their children playing in the snow, cheeks rosy and pink, smiles wide, having a blast! And why not: it’s fantastic see our kids being active and creative outside for hours on end, particularly after being cooped up for days inside.

However, it is important for all parents and caregivers to be aware of the potential hazards of snow play involving snow forts, tunnels and tall snow banks.

There are no national statistics on the types and number of childhood injuries that occur annually in Canada, but health officials say at least one Canadian child suffocates each year after being trapped in a snow structure. The children are usually school-age and generally old enough to play outside by themselves. Children who suffocate in the snow are also often playing by themselves when they become trapped in a snow structure.

Child Safety Link would like to remind parents and caregivers of the following tips that will help your children to be safe while they are having fun outside in these wintery conditions:

  • If children want to build snow structures in the yard, they should not make roofs or form a tunnel that could collapse on them. Encourage them to have fun by being creative—perhaps they could make a house with walls (instead of a ceiling) and fill it with “snow furniture.”
  • Active supervision is important when young children are playing outside in the snow. School-aged children should play outside with a friend who could call for help if a situation arose.
  • Children should never play in or on snow banks that border roads, as snow plow operators and other drivers may not know there are children on/in them.
  • Children should keep well away from snowblowers (both the machine itself and the snow plume that is ejected from it), as well as snow plows.

Please visit Child Safety Link’s website at www.childsafetylink.ca for these and more tips on winter safety for children of all ages and stages.


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A day that we should all be proud of.

Geoffrey Milder is the Development Officer and Children’s Miracle Network Program Director at the IWK Health Centre Foundation.

Participants from accross the Maritimes celebrate at Shubie Park in Dartmouth, NS.

The weather might have been a little cloudy, but that didn’t stop us from having fun last Sunday at the 9th Annual Walmart Walk for Miracles. Joining 11 other cities across the country, more than 400 supporters showed up at Shubie Park in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, to celebrate their philanthropy and fundraising efforts for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and the IWK Health Centre.

 The support that was shown was unbelievable, as associates travelled from all over the Maritimes to enjoy a day that celebrates Walmart’s incredible commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of Maritime families.

Participants in this year’s walk made their way through either a 1 or 5km route. I had the privilege of walking and meeting some amazing Walk for Miracle participants along the route. It was inspiring to see so many people out enjoying themselves and supporting this amazing cause.

The walk was a huge success and was a day that we should all be proud of. Together, we were able to raise an astounding $14,673.95 to help purchase priority equipment and support life-saving medical research as well as vital patient services at the IWK Health Centre.

After completing the Walk, children and adults alike reveled in the festivities which included face painting, entertainment from Atlantic Cirque, Milo “T” Clown and an enormous bouncy castle! The carnival atmosphere was the perfect way to say “thank you,” to Walmart and its supporters for presenting the largest donation during the previous weekend’s IWK Telethon. The Maritimes is fortunate to have such a world-class health care centre in its region. It’s the support of companies like Walmart, its associates and the countless customers that purchase a paper balloon that allow us to achieve our goals. It goes to show that with you, anything is possible.

I would like to personally thank all who come out to support this year’s Walmart Walk for Miracles. Thank you for your incredible fundraising initiatives, your support and thank you for a fabulous weekend!

Make a gift to the IWK Health Centre Foundation.