Why “The Children's" is not just any institution

Par Brigitte Garceau le 26 août 2011

 “Suffer the little children…”

The Montreal Children's Hospital Foundation  recently held its 12th annual ball at Windsor Station. This one, under the chairmanship of the indefatigable Mirella and Nadia Saputo, raised a record $900,000. Several years ago I had the privilege of co-chairing this important community event. I want to tell you why it’s not just another society ball.

Several years ago Montreal had a crisis in childrens health care. Every paper in the city, including this one covered it. The crisis involved waiting lists for childrens operations. Montreal had just over 5000 waiting for elective surgery. Toronto at that time had just over 1500.

Don’t let the term elective surgery mislead you. Though not life threatening in most cases, delays in ear, nose and throat procedures for example can leave debilitating effects if not attended to fast enough. In many ways childrens’ bodies are more resilient than our own, but in many other ways they are not. Scars, physical and emotional, are left from the neglect of certain conditions.Only through the engagement of each of us can we assure that a centre of excellence such as the Children's continues to have the resources to prevent such an occurence again.

An American Senator once said that a society is judged by how it takes care of those “in the dawn of life and in the dusk of life.” In other words, our children and our seniors. They are the two groups most vulnerable to the exigencies, political and economic, of our health care system. Without citizen and community involvement – raising money, organizing volunteers and just caring – even the best of our institutions could not keep up. And the Children's is one of our best. In an emergency situation, there are no huge wait times at the Children's. Response is immediate, care is efficient and the staff is compassionate. Just think how many times so many of us have shown up with our children - anxious, tired, a bit helpless - amd been given  prompt , professional and personal attention even in the middle of the night.

I want to share a story with you. Several years ago tragedy struck a young girl. She had just turned eight and was struck with cancer. She fought it bravely and with the help of her family and friends, overcame the emotional trauma of the experience. But this little girl, in the midst of her own pain, noticed that not all the other little boys and girls had the same number of visitors, or toys or smiles. Just too many tears. Despite the excellent program at the hospital for creating a more social environment for the kids, not everybody could get everything they needed.

mch-bldg.jpgWhen she got out, she convinced her parents to start a fund-raising effort with the Foundation, to aid the hospital in broadening the number and quality of emotional support facilities at the hospital. The program has flourished. And it has flourished because so many people volunteered. People who were very involved with the Foundation Gala – one of its main fundraising functions – but who also understood that more was required. Of course the yearlong work of the foundation in raising money for better equipment and staff and patient amenities is crucial. But those involved with the Foundation understand that their moral as well as material commitment is required. And as someone involved in both community and political activism  I can tell you that I have rarely seen such selflessness as I see in the Childrens Foundation  volunteers, and not just at gala time.

The theme of this year's ball said it all, "Because they are so precious."  There has never been a more important time to give the Children's all the backing it needs. This year marks the  start of construction of the new Children's on the Glen Campus of the MUHC, and our work must continue to assure that " the best care for children " - the name of the campaign headed by Marc A. Courtois - is always assured. 

The legacy of all those involved with the hospital, from the singularly groundbreaking work of its Chairman Dr. Nicholas Steinmetz and the extraordinary commitment of president Louise Dery-Goldberg, down through all its staff and volunteers is selflessness. It is a selflessness bred from commitment to relieve the suffering of children. And it is the selflessness of family. How often have I heard the term "second family"  used by everyone involved with this vital institution. It is a sentiment shared by all the award winners that night from the junior achievers to the medical specialsts to the corporate supporters.

They bear witness to the truth of what that Senator said. They all choose to pass this litmus test of our civility as a society - to make the care of those in the dawn of life the vital priority it should be.



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