It was to Infinity and beyond for CHEO's 22nd annual For the Kids Auction as the region’s pediatric hospital brought its signature gala to the Infinity Convention Centre this year.
Some 350 parents, children, business sponsors, CHEO staff and volunteers spent the evening bidding on silent and live auction items, enjoying a buffet-style dinner and learning more about the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and the programs and services that it offers to children with special needs.
Guests also mingled with CHEO’s mascot bear, who donned his fancy formal wear.
The gala, held Wednesday, was emceed by mom-of-two Annette Goerner, host of CTV Morning. Helping out as chair of the event's steering committee was Leslie Walker. She retired last year as principal of CHEO’s Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre School, which serves children with physical disabilities and complex medical needs. She credited the “wonderful, amazing kids” for inspiring her to return as a volunteer.
The money raised from the For the Kids charitable auction will help the children, youth and families who rely on Development and Rehabilitation at CHEO.
"It’s about giving every single young person the opportunity to live their best life."
“At the end of the day I really just want you to remember one thing: it’s not about specialized equipment, it’s not about schools, it’s not about programs,” CHEO president and chief executive Alex Munter told the room. “It’s about giving every single young person the opportunity to live their best life.”
OBJ.social asked Munter how he likes being a first-time dad. He and his spouse adopted their son, Benjamin, last year. The little guy is now nine months’ old. “It’s a whole new life,” he replied. “It’s exciting.”
Attendees that night included Ottawa Senators player Jean-Gabriel Pageau and his wife, Camille Pageau, who recently finished law school and is preparing to be called to the bar. Also seen were Ottawa Redblacks defensive back Antoine Pruneau and Canopy Growth founder, chairman and co-chief executive Bruce Linton, who was named Ottawa’s 2018 CEO of the Year.
CHEO Foundation president and CEO Kevin Keohane was seen with CHEO supporter Olympia Colasante, recently retired vice president of American Airlines. She flew in from Florida in order to attend the gala dinner.
Live auction items included a one-week stay in the Bahamas; a pair of WestJet tickets; a round of golf with Sens player Cody Ceci and Dallas Stars player Marc Methot at Kanata Lakes and the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club; and a VIA Rail trip to Toronto to catch the Blue Jays in action.
The Infinity Convention Centre also donated a home-cooked dinner for eight to be prepared by seasoned chef Tim Wasylko, director of food and beverage at the ICC. The dinner comes with service and clean up. “I’m a dad, I have kids, so it’s a cause that’s close to my heart,” Wasylko told OBJ.social.
Among the adorable kids in attendance was three-year-old Maeve Danson. She was born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC). It causes curved joints, muscle weakness, and stiffness.
The parents first found out about the rare condition when they were into week 20 of the pregnancy. They were warned that one in three babies with AMC don't live past the first year. “We were heart-broken, devastated — not because she was bent or broken but because our time had been cut short,” mother Keira Danson told the room. “The opportunity to love and lose a child was a thought that I couldn’t bear.
“The neat thing about life is that we have choices,” she continued. “At that moment, we were given a choice. There were so many paths that we could have taken.”
The Dansons went with hope over fear. “Maeve has a beautiful purpose in life and it’s our job to discover what that purpose is."
The mother of three young children spoke about some of the treatment her daughter has required, from surgeries to the use of casts, splints and braces. Early intervention has been key to her progress, she also said.
“I’m happy to say that Maeve has jumped in puddles, she’s picked her nose, she’s made a mess in the bathroom sink, she’s done cross-country and downhill skiing, she’s used chopsticks, played hide-and-go-seek, helped with our household chores and is able to give her loved ones big hugs,” said Danson. “For this, we owe a great debt of gratitude to CHEO’s Development and Rehabilitation department, and to you, who believe in these kids so much that you’re here tonight.”
By way of background, CHEO amalgamated with the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre in 2016. Prior to then, families dealt with each organization separately.
A multi-disciplinary team representing all the included services was brought together in 2017 to design a new and simple one-door approach. This included physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech language therapy, the Autism Program, social workers, recreation therapy, respite services, behaviour services and the First Words Preschool Speech and Language Program.