The CHEO Foundation is adding a stronger online and interactive element to its popular annual telethon, turning the traditional one-day event into a two-week online experience that invites Ottawa residents to meet children in their community whose lives have been changed by the local hospital.
While the annual telethon is always a significant event for CHEO, it’s taken on extra importance amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the hospital’s fundraising activities and third-party events that support CHEO’s research, and support programs, as well as help fund the purchase of new equipment, have been cancelled to help limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Several Ottawa businesses have already stepped in to help CHEO fill the gap through corporate sponsorships of the online telethon, which runs from May 25 to June 7, and are encouraging others in the local business community to participate in the campaign.
One of those companies is W.O. Stinson & Son, an Ottawa-based fuel and lubricant distributor that’s pledged up to $10,000 in matching funds – effectively doubling the impact of donations made during the campaign.
The local company’s support of CHEO dates back to the early 2000s and has included hosting classic car shows, entering teams in the CN Cycle for CHEO and donating money to the cause.
“We’re a family business and family is obviously very important to us,” says Lisa Stinson of W.O. Stinson & Son. “Our family, our employees’ families and even our customers’ families – most people have someone close to them who has used CHEO. We’re all really lucky to have it, which is why we like to put ourselves in alignment with the hospital.”
CHEO 2020 telethon
When: May 25 to June 7
Live on CTV Ottawa Sunday, June 7 from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The Stinson family also has a personal connection to CHEO. Lisa Stinson received cancer treatment at the hospital as a teenager. Additionally, one of her brothers received diabetes care at CHEO, while another brother received vision treatment as a baby.
“It’s been a very significant place for my family,” she says.
Other employees have similar stories.
General manager John Armstrong’s son spent more than a week at CHEO as a child receiving bladder and liver treatment. Now that Armstrong’s children are adults, he’s returned to CHEO when his grandchildren required medical treatment.
“The staff always made us feel comfortable with the way they assured us and explained what was going to happen,” Armstrong says. “The care they received was just amazing.”
W.O. Stinson & Son is matching the donations made by individuals who are particularly touched by the story of Abbigail Moreau – one of several children whose experiences at CHEO are being featured in the online campaign.
The 10-year-old suffers from an incurable and aggressive disease as a result from the cancer which she has also had to battle for several years. She was diagnosed at just 20 months old with neuroblastoma and opsoclonus myoclonus ataxia syndrome (OMS) – a neurological disorder that attacks the brain and affects motor skills, behaviour, sleep and more.
Abbigail needed years of chemotherapy and received a life-threatening bone marrow transplant at age four. She has been receiving weekly immunosuppressive treatments to prevent a relapse and will need care her entire life.
OMS is rare, affecting one in 10 million people. CHEO has only had one other case. With research into the disease limited and more funding needed, there is still much to learn. But thanks to donors supporting CHEO, oncology research and therapies are evolving.
“Research is very important in cases like Abbigail’s where there’s nobody else looking into it,” says her mother, Krystal.
Armstrong echoes those sentiments and urges Ottawa’s business leaders to support CHEO’s work during this critical period, noting that it’s an investment with a long-lasting impact on the wider community.
“CHEO is taking care of these kids, who are our future,” he says. “It’s important to give them the best care we can.”