LITTLE CURRENT—Last Saturday morning, Low Island Park in Little Current was a sea of red.
Red T-shirts were given to all who participated in Mackenzie’s Run and Walk for CHEO, a new event to both fundraise for the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) in Ottawa and to draw attention to that institution’s importance to Manitoulin Island.
The event was organized by Jillian Peltier, mother of the late Mackenzie Peltier as a tribute and thanks to the staff of CHEO when her son was hospitalized there during his fatal illness.
Ms. Peltier’s efforts were not in vain as an estimated 100 people (many in family groups) walked or ran 2 or 5 kilometre distances, raising money through their sponsors and awareness of CHEO’s importance through their participation.
In an earlier Expositor story, Ms. Peltier had explained that “it is not very well known that there is a chance that children from the area would be referred to CHEO and not to Sick Kids in Toronto. We had such a great experience with the doctors nurses and staff at CHEO despite the fact that we did lose our son.”
She also noted that her family has had other contact with the hospital with another family member on another issue, and, significantly, they have also had ongoing contact with their late son’s physician “to let us know that she still thinks of us.”
Dena Burton, a health worker at the Manitoulin Health Centre, was one of the participants in the event where she race-walked the 5 kilometre distance and she did it not only in support of Ms. Peltier’s cause but because her own family wanted to give back to CHEO on their own.
She told The Expositor that five years ago, one of her children had suffered a fractured clavicle and a fractured femur following a sledding accident in Espanola.
Her son was airlifted by helicopter directly from Espanola to CHEO where he underwent surgery.
She explained that CHEO arranged accommodation for herself and the rest of her anxious family in Ottawa during her son’s stay at CHEO and then the whole family was airlifted from Ottawa to the Manitoulin East Municipal Airport by fixed-wing aircraft, all organized for them by the CHEO staff.
“It was a great experience,” Ms. Burton explained (except for her son’s injuries).
She reiterated Ms. Peltier’s statement that CHEO is also our go-to children’s hospital, as well as Sick Kids. “And if Sick Kids can’t accommodate a patient, children go to CHEO. It’s great.”
(Ms. Burton race-walked the 5 kilometres in 39 minutes even.)
According to the CHEO foundation’s Chantal Charbonneau, senior manager of community engagement, a total of 224 children were treated in 2013 in the Ottawa hospital from Northeastern Ontario (Algoma, Cochrane, Manitoulin, Nipissing, Parry Sound, Sudbury and Timiskaming Districts).
As of press time Monday, Ms. Peltier reported that the funds raised by the Mackenzie’s Walk and Run event stands at $4,181 (which includes some online donations made to Mackenzie’s event through the CHEO Foundation website.)
Organizer Jillian Peltier told The Expositor on Saturday that she plans to continue the event in upcoming years either annually or an every-other-year basis.
Ms. Peltier also wanted to express her gratitude, and that of her family, for the overwhelming assistance by participants and support staff from the Manitoulin community.