Spirit of Giving


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Making a change in the world

Shanyn, Maddy, Jessica, and Luna

Shanyn, Maddy, Jessica, and Luna

At the beginning of the school year we got our class outline. On it, our expectations and our teacher’s goal for this semester was for us to do something to change something in the world, whether it was big or small.  A couple of us got together and figured out a great cause we wanted to help.  I loved the idea of the IWK, it was so important in our community and they saved two of our group member’s lives.  Neither of us would have been here if it weren’t for their help!  We had a goal of $500 to raise for them.  We wanted to make sure that the IWK would always be there to help children like us.  In our school, in the community of Liverpool, on October 24th, we had a bake sale. Altogether we raised $125 for that day and scheduled a bottle drive for the 2nd and 3rd of November.  In the freezing cold we managed to raise $380 which was just enough to reach our goal.  We were so glad to be able to give them $505 towards the kids that needed our help.  We drove into the IWK one day and did the cheque presentation.  The girl that assisted us from the start was very helpful, and I am glad that we chose this charity.

We had a great journey with the IWK and loved every step of the way.

Shanyn, Maddy, Jessica, and Luna


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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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Embracing your authentic self

On December 5th, IWK Foundation President & CEO, Jennifer Gillivan, took part in one of more than 200 TEDxWomen events around the world at Mount Saint Vincent University. TEDWomen is a TED event curated by TED and Pat Mitchell, focusing on women and innovation. The theme of TedWomen this year is ‘Invented Here’.

Jennifer believes when women can truly be their authentic self they can lead an extraordinary life!


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Change Makers – Jacqueline

This article is a series of three, written by Tom Mason for theFall 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. 

Jacqueline Wigle is busier than the average 20-year-old. In addition to a full slate of classes at Dalhousie University, where she majors in theatre studies, she devotes much of her spare time to helping young people cope with illness.

Jacqueline Wigle

Jacqueline Wigle

Jacqueline volunteers with “You’re in Charge” an IWK program that helps teenagers with chronic diseases and their parents learn to manage their own health. She also volunteers with Camp Brigadoon, a camp for kids with chronic illnesses in the Annapolis Valley. She advocates for social inclusion for children with developmental delays, speaks out about Crohn’s disease, and works with young people to help them through their own health issues.

Her drive to help others is matched with her empathy. Jacqueline was first diagnosed with Crohn’s disease – a painful, and often severe, inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract – when she was 12. Her treatments meant at least eight lengthy stays at the IWK where she would undergo a procedure known as total parenteral nutrition (TPN) that provides all her food through intravenous fluids, a procedure designed to give her inflamed intestinal tract a rest. The TPN treatments often lasted two weeks at a time – a strain on any busy teenager.

“The hardest part is craving food,” she says. “I’d be okay until I saw food commercials on TV and then I would really start to miss the taste of it.”

Jacqueline calls Crohn’s “an unsexy illness” and says that sufferers often get ignored because of the stigma attached to a digestive disorder. “Let’s face it. It isn’t an easy thing to talk about,” she says.

Two years ago, as a member of the IWK Youth Advisory Council, Jacqueline headed up a project called “Passionate for T.P.” to lobby for better quality toilet paper for inpatients with gastrointestinal disease. “Patients with those kinds of problems spend a lot of time going to the bathroom,” she says. “Having a good quality toilet paper can be very comforting and helpful for them” Thanks to those efforts, today IWK inpatients can access higher quality toilet paper whenever they need it.

She manages to do it the way she meets every challenge in her life: through humour. “The best thing you can do when you’re dealing with something like this is to stay positive and try not to take things too seriously. If you allow yourself to see the funny side, it’s a whole lot easier to get through it.” That’s where her love of theatre, music and dance comes in.

“What matters is to be happy. That’s why I got involved with theatre and that’s why I got involved with the IWK. I wanted to be able to see my own hospital experience in a positive way. I wanted to get something positive from my illness.”

In the spring of 2013, Jacqueline received the Robbie and Jean Shaw Scholarship, an award given to former IWK patients who have made a difference in their community. She hopes to go to law school when she graduates and would like to channel her passion for advocating on behalf of young patients into a law career.

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


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Leaving a Gift for Tomorrow

Mary Theresa Ross is the Manager of  Personal & Planned Gifts with the IWK Health Centre Foundation. If you have any questions, or would like further information on how to make a planned gift to the IWK Foundation, please call Mary Theresa at 902-470-8240.

Mary Theresa Ross, Manager of Personal & Planned Gifts

Mary Theresa Ross, Manager of Personal & Planned Gifts

Each of us possesses the power to provide a lasting legacy to charitable causes we feel are important. A gift in your will not only provides tremendous personal satisfaction , but allows the IWK to plan for future projects with greater certainty and use donations to greater effect.

For me, working at the IWK Foundation is so much more than a career, it is my absolute passion. I believe in the need because I’ve seen it first hand. My daughter, Jody, spent more than four and half years as an inpatient being treated at the Health Centre.

I used to reflect on what it would be like for Maritime Families if the IWK was not here. A gift in a Will helps the Foundation with the security of knowing the funds are in place to allow us to continue to grow and provide care for future generations. It helps ensure the future will be stronger. Your planning is a part of how we help families.

Here is the top 10 things you can do today to leave a gift in your will to your favourite charitable cause.

Sincerely, Mary Theresa Ross, IWK Health Centre Foundation

Top 10 Things You Can Do Today to Leave a Legacy

1.) Prepare a will.

2.) Leave a gift in your will for the not-for-profit organization that makes a difference in your life.

3.) Leave a specific dollar amount or a percentage of your assets to a not-for-profit organization.

4.) Consider using assets for your legacy gift.

5.) Name a not-for-profit as a beneficiary of your RRSP, RRIF or pension plan.

6.) Name your favourite not-for-profit as the beneficiary of an existing life insurance policy.

7.) Purchase a new life insurance policy naming your favourite not-for-profit as the beneficiary.

8.) Remember loved ones with memorial gifts.

9.) Encourage family and friends to leave gifts to not-for-profit in their wills.

10.) Ask your financial or estate planning advisor to include charitable giving as part of your financial plan and to incorporate in their counsel to other clients.

Make a gift to the IWK Health Centre Foundation. 


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Made-to-Order Independence

This article was written by Debra Wells-Hopey for the Spring/Summer issue of Izaak Magazine – an in-depth, behind the scenes, all-access publication highlighting the incredible, everyday happenings at the IWK Health Centre.

11-year-old Taya and occupational therapist Julia Gates

11-year-old Taya and occupational therapist Julia Gates

How a customized wheelchair program provides quality of life for hundreds of kids.

Taya is spirited, bright and patient as she describes the way she gets around in the world.

“When I move my head left, I turn left,” she says enthusiastically, even though she must have explained this to people many times over. “When I move my head right, I go right. And when I move my head back, I go straight forward.”

At 11 years-old, Taya has Cerebral Palsy and is a long time visitor to IWK Specialty Seating, a service within the IWK’s Rehabilitation Service. The service offers assessment and provision of customized seating and positioning equipment, including seating inserts, wheelchairs, special-needs strollers, bath seats, car seats and toileting aids.

Julia Gates, Occupational Therapist in Specialty Seating, and Nancy Cashen, Operations Manager for Rehabilitation Services, have known Taya since she was three years old. “This program is designed to assist children who can’t walk on their own, most often due to Spina Bifida, Muscular Dystrophy or Cerebral Palsy,” explained Gates. “Children are referred to the program as early as 14 months and stay with us until they are ready to transition to adult health care.”

Gates explained that although children this young are able to still use a stroller, it means they are dependent on others to get around — at an age when they want to start exploring the world on their own.

“Independence is an essential part in a child’s growth and development,” added Cashen.

Specialty Seating at the IWK consists of Cashen and Gates, as well as a Specialty Seating Technician, David Beattie, and a Funding Coordinator. Together, along with the family, this team determines what kind of wheelchair would be best for the child.

“We take many factors into account,” says Gates. “For instance, a level of hand mobility is essential for maneuvering a manual wheelchair, but not necessary for a power wheelchair.”

The amount of seating support required is a complex assessment that is completed by the occupational therapist and takes into account the disease prognosis, planned orthopaedic surgeries, maintenance of skin integrity, comfort, functional abilities and wheelchair skills. All children are different, and the amount of support required could be viewed as mild, moderate, or complex. Generally, seating for a mild support is not custom made, and may be arranged through a local wheelchair supplier in the community. The seating for children who require moderate or complex support is custom made by the Specialty Seating Service at the IWK.

There is a workshop onsite at the IWK where Beattie employs his expertise. For specialized seating, an impression is made on a mould that resembles a large bean bag. This shape can then be transferred to a 3D digital model on the computer. These images are sent via email to the United States where the only machine of its kind in North America manufactures the seat. It is then shipped to the IWK for fitting.

As for Beattie, he has been with the hospital since 1989. He was familiar with an Occupational Therapist who suggested he may enjoy the work. Considering Beattie has remained in the program for more than 24 years, it certainly is a great fit.

“This is the perfect job as far as I’m concerned,” says Beattie. “I get to work with my hands and help people simultaneously. The work is challenging and rewarding.”

Beattie’s workshop looks much like any other, yet very unlike anything you expect to see in a hospital. There are various materials stored: pieces of repurposed wheelchairs, three industrial-sized sewing machines, neoprene for upholstering, two band saws, a table saw and a wealth of tools.

“When we first see someone we measure them for a seat using a fitting frame. From these measurements I construct a seat out of foam and plywood and I upholster it. I also adjust and repair wheelchairs as needed. I’d say one of my favourite parts of my job is going on the mobile clinics. Several times a year we go to Cape Breton and the Annapolis Valley. At times we go to schools here in HRM, or even homes.”

Gates explained that the first order of business when a child needs a wheelchair or seating device is to meet with the family and get to know their needs.

“This initial meeting is so important,” says Gates. “It’s when we first get to meet the child; establishing their needs, administering a postural assessment, taking measurements, then making recommendations.”

“Recently we had a child who needed a new power wheelchair. We had two styles and tried them both in the home to see which operated better in that specific environment. It needs to work in the child’s daily life.”

Having the right wheelchair and seating can make all the difference in the world when it comes to quality of life — kids need to participate with classmates, explore their environment and have a sense of independence.

“When a child receives their first wheelchair it is often a period of growth for both the parents and the child,” says Gates.

Taya’s mother Christine knows all about it. She has been taking Taya to Specialty Seating and working with the team for eight years. Taya was only three when she received her first wheelchair and met the group at Specialty Seating. She was outgrowing a stroller at this point, not only in a physical way but also as a growing child her needs were changing — she had a desire to be independent, to be able to explore the world on her own.

“Although she was small enough to still use the stroller, it no longer seemed to be the appropriate choice,”explained her mom. “The chair was so much better for her

Izaak#Provincial#05-02-2013#A01posture, and allowed her to be eye level with her peers. Her diaphragm was also better supported which made her breathing and therefore her speaking so much better.”

Taya was born with cerebral palsy. She enjoys her grade five class and likes to read — especially Harry Potter books. She also swims and uses a sit ski at Wentworth ski hill.

“I have both a manual and a power chair,” explained Taya. “I use the power chair at school. Some places are easier to use a wheelchair in than others though.”

Although Taya drives herself around by using head movements, the wheelchair must be steered remotely by a device similar to a joystick when it is being loaded into the family van. Apparently, according to a laughing Taya, dad is an expert at it, while mom, who is quick to agree, isn’t as deft.

Taya was eight when she got her first power chair. She started at six years old “training” with a joy stick, but it was a lot of work and a head array began to make more sense. The family visits Specialty Seating about once a year.

“To a certain extent, the chairs grow with her. Especially the manual chair, which she will have for about eight years,” explains Christine. “The power chair needs changes or replacing more frequently.”

As for cost, the family is fortunate that both Christine and her husband have good health care plans, however, they still certainly incur costs. The head array alone cost $10,000, which is as much as the chair. Then there are the costs of converting the family van with a manual ramp that has to be lifted and unfolded. A power system is even more expensive. This is the reality for families with a wheelchair. Taya gets to continue to visit the team at Specialty Seating until she is ready to transition to adult health care.

“I can’t say enough about the program and the staff,” says Christine. “When your child is first diagnosed, you’re in a daze. You don’t know where to go or what to do. They have helped us immensely, even in emergency situations.”

One such situation was during a weekend when Taya’s chair was accidentally run over, crushing one of the wheels. It meant facing a whole weekend propped up or in bed. Not a great thought for a young, energetic girl like Taya. Christine contacted Gates and Beattie who were more than willing to go into work on a Saturday to get the chair fixed. Says Taya, “Dave and Julia are extremely nice people and I would come to them all my life if I could.”

And there’s no higher praise than that.

To read the full issue of Izaak magazine visit www.iwkfoundation.org/izaak

Make a gift to the IWK Health Centre Foundation.


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What is bullying?

Today is Pink Shirt day! An initiative started by two Nova Scotia teens as a protest against a bullying incident at their high school. Bullying Canada is a national anti-bullying charitable organization, dedicated to create awareness amongst youth and encourage them to speak out about bullying and victimization. Rob Frenette, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Bullying Canada shares his thoughts on exactly what bullying is, and how to stop it.

Youths know that bullying isn’t only physical, but emotional. Youths know that bullying is deadly.

Rob Frenette, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Bullying Canada.

Rob Frenette, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Bullying Canada.

Bullying is wrong! It is behaviour that makes the person being bullied feel afraid or uncomfortable, and even though many children see it every day, there are many ways that young people bully each other – even if they don’t realize it at the time. What may seem like harmless “teasing” can in fact leave individuals feeling vulnerable and worthless. The facts don’t lie:

  • Approximately one in 10 children have bullied others and as many as 25% of children in grades four to six have been bullied.
  • One in seven Canadian children aged 11 to 16 are victims of bullying.
  • Bullying occurs once every seven minutes on the playground and once every 25 minutes in the classroom.
  • In most cases, bullying stops within 10 seconds when peers intervene, or do not support the bullying behaviour.
  • There is a correlation between increased supervision and decreased bullying. Bullies stop when adults are around.

The four most common types of bullying are:

Verbal bullying – name-calling, sarcasm, teasing, spreading rumours, threatening, making negative references to one’s culture, ethnicity, race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, unwanted sexual comments.

Social Bullying – mobbing, scapegoating, excluding others from a group, humiliating others with public gestures or graffiti intended to put others down.

Physical Bullying – hitting, poking, pinching, chasing, shoving, coercing, destroying or stealing belongings, unwanted sexual touching.

Cyber Bullying – using the internet or text messaging to intimidate, put-down, spread rumours or make fun of someone.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions and myths about how bullying should be handled. Bullying is a reality that faces many youth today and complaints of bullying shouldn’t be ignored or dismissed.

Myth #1 – “Children have got to learn to stand up for themselves.” 
Children who get up the courage to complain about being bullied are saying they’ve tried and can’t cope with the situation on their own. Treat their complaints as a call for help. In addition to offering support, it can be helpful to provide children with problem solving and assertiveness training to assist them in dealing with difficult situations.

Myth #2 – “It builds character.”
Children who are bullied repeatedly, have low self-esteem and do not trust others. Bullying damages a person’s self-concept.

Myth #3 – “That’s not bullying. They’re just teasing.”
Vicious taunting hurts and should be stopped.

Myth #5 – “Kids will be kids.”
Bullying is a learned behaviour. Children may be imitating aggressive behaviour they have seen on television, in movies or at home. It is important for adults to discuss violence in the media with youth, so they can learn how to keep it in context. There is a need to focus on changing attitudes toward violence.

Bullying is painful and humiliating, and kids who are bullied feel embarrassed, battered and shamed. By speaking out and bringing awareness to bullying, we can make a difference.

For more information about bullying, Bullying Canada and how you can help, visit www.bullyingcanada.ca.


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IWK marks mental health milestone

Carla Adams is a Principal Communications Strategist at the IWK Foundation.

Glenna Rose-Williams and Dr. Jerry Grey mark the beginning of construction.

Glenna Rose-Williams and Dr. Jerry Grey mark the beginning of construction.

Here is one way to guarantee lots of smiling faces in an otherwise non-descript construction zone – give them a hammer or crow bar and let them have at it.

It was a monumental moment.  On Monday, February 11th, physicians, staff and a patient took some healthy swings at a wall to ceremoniously mark the construction of a state-of-the-art inpatient mental health unit on the fifth floor of the IWK.

Clinical nurse leader, Glenna Rose-Williams, has worked on the current unit (known as 4 South) for five years.  “I think I’m most excited about the natural light that will be in our new unit. It will be a bright, happy feeling space.”

Generous donors are funding the new unit, set for completion about a year from now.  In September, Myron and Berna Garron contributed $10 million to the IWK – $5 million of which is earmarked for mental health.  In October, RBC also donated $500,000 to the new unit.

Dr. Jerry Grey, head of psychiatry for the inpatient mental health unit, hopes that the new and improved environment for mental health patients will bring better outcomes and reduce stigma.

“We’re very excited about this new unit. We feel very strongly that it will have a very positive influence in changing families’ and children as well as other physicians’ attitudes and perceptions of our patients.”

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this project – a real dream come true for the IWK.

Make a gift to the IWK Health Centre Foundation. 


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A decade of dedication.

Child Safety Link is an injury prevention program based at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, striving to help keep  newborns, babies, toddlers and children safe at home, on the road and at play; in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

Minister of Health and Wellness David Wilson accepts a plaque from Sandra Newton, Manager of Child Safety Link.

This morning, the Child Safety Link program at the IWK celebrated a milestone. For the past 10 years, they have been working diligently to keep Maritime children and youth safe. Today, Nova Scotia Minister of Health and Wellness, Dave Wilson, stopped by the IWK Health Centre to recognize and thank them for their service to the community.

Each year, 34 children and youth die in Atlantic Canada from unintentional injuries*.  Child Safety Link works hard to prevent these injuries by providing valuable information to families and caregivers across our region on such topics as child passenger safety, home and playground safety, poisoning prevention, pedestrian safety and helmet use. “We aren’t trying to get people to bubble-wrap their children, or prevent the everyday bumps and bruises,” said CSL’s Manager Sandra Newton. “We are trying to help prevent the major injuries that can completely alter the life of a child, and have lasting, devastating effects on their families and communities.”

Over the past decade, Child Safety Link has played a fundamental advocacy role in the development of numerous child safety initiatives, including the recent Nova Scotian Snow Helmet Act that makes is mandatory for people to wear ski and snowboard helmets while on the province’s ski hills. As of November 1, 2012, our province is now the first place in the world where this is a law!

Congratulations to Child Safety Link from the IWK Health Centre Foundation on a decade of keeping children and youth safe!

*Child & Youth Unintentional Injury in Atlantic Canada: 10 Years in Review (Safe Kids Canada)

Learn more about Child Safety Link, and methods to keep children of all ages safe. 


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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!