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This year’s CHEO Telethon aims to ‘right-size’ pediatric care in Ottawa

CHEO Telethon Ottawa

Former CHEO patient and cancer survivor Lisa Stinson has two new reasons to keep supporting the annual CHEO telethon.

“I have two kids now — four months, and coming up on two years,” she said.

Stinson works in the family business at Ottawa-based W.O. Stinson & Son which has been in operation since the 1930’s. 

“For us, sponsoring the telethon is about more than just the impact the hospital has had on our family but also our employees and the communities we service,” said Stinson. “As our family, company, and communities continue to grow, we know it’s important to support CHEO now more than ever.”

Built in 1974, next year CHEO will celebrate the big 5-0, but CHEO Foundation president and CEO Steve Read says it’s a reminder the hospital was built to serve the community’s needs when the population was much smaller.

“We are significantly undersized for the population we serve. We need to right-size pediatric care in our area, and we rely on community support to make that happen,” he said.

CHEO Foundation’s priorities

Pediatric care is at a critical stage in Ottawa — and not just due to the pandemic.

“The health-care system has been under pressure for some time now,” said Read. “Across the province and certainly here in Ottawa, kids are waiting longer for services than adults.”

And with little patients, delays are a big problem. Kids are growing and developing every day so procedures need to be provided at the right time to give the child the full benefit of care. “Too often they’re waiting longer than is medically safe,” said Read. “And that’s just not okay.”

Due to Canada’s shared-cost model, the government pays for operating costs but doesn’t cover expenses like medical equipment. That’s why the CHEO Foundation is focusing on infrastructure, equipment and programming this year.

That doesn’t mean their ongoing initiatives will be neglected. The Foundation continues to fund world-class pediatric research right here in Ottawa.

“The CHEO Research Institute exists because of the support from the community, and while new treatments and discoveries are having a global impact, they often have a more immediate benefit to the kids right here at CHEO,” said Read. Which speaks to the high-level of expertise that can be found right here in Ottawa. 

“We have so many talented physicians, nurses, technicians and researchers who dedicate their lives to helping improve child health,” said Read. “But we’re not able to provide them with the proper facility to do their best work. We need to fix that.”

The ripple effect of a childhood illness

Read emphasized another critical aspect of pediatric care. “When a child gets sick, injured or is battling a disease, it’s truly a family impact,” said Read.

Stinson agreed, and noted another impact that often goes overlooked: how surviving a serious illness as a child redefines you.  

“You go into cancer treatment as one person and you come out a different person,” said Stinson. “After I was done my treatment, the sudden transition from cancer patient to teenager was something I found myself unprepared for.” 

That’s why the ongoing support she got from CHEO when she went back to high school was so important. “Whether it’s returning to school, your mental health or growing your hair back, CHEO points you in the right direction when you need support,” said Stinson.

That social support is also delivered when the kids are in hospital. “We support a clowning program that helps the kids get through scary tests and procedures like needles,” said Read, adding that social programs can also help medically.

Emeric, a child at CHEO who will be supported by the CHEO Telethon

Why community support for the CHEO Telethon is so important

“Obviously, our patients are not our donors, so we count on the generosity of the business community,” said Read. “We’re always amazed by the support that we get.”

In addition to supporting the live telethon, this year Stinson’s family is sponsoring 15-year-old Emeric, an oncology patient at CHEO who the foundation describes as “quite the young man who uses motivation and strength to fight cancer.”

“We feel humbled and grateful when our friends, family, and customers call in to let us know they made a donation because of our involvement in the CHEO Telethon,” said Stinson. “Which is exactly what we want to do.”

In the end, the Stinsons are just glad to know they’re making a difference. 

“We’re happy to know that our support plays a small part in fueling the hospital and the research they’re doing,” said Stinson. “When it comes to supporting kids, we’re grateful to have CHEO to help us navigate through it all.” 

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