Nothing can evoke a sense of appreciation for health more than hearing about a sick child in need. QR Calgary’s annual Pledge day radiothon raises funds for the Calgary Children’s Foundation and this year the live 12-hour radio broadcast yielded a total of $177,000 in donations from generous Calgarians.
Calgary Children’s Foundation Chair John Vos said the day was about connecting with smaller grassroots charities.
“They sometimes fall through the cracks and don’t get the financial attention that they need. Think about our current economic environment, those groups need financial assistance as much as ever,” he said.
Since the first Pledge Day 49 years ago, QR Calgary has devoted the first Friday in December to supporting Calgary kids and local charities.
“Each one is unique, there are lunch programs, after school programs, and there are some cars we funded with Variety called Go Baby Go. Young kids that have mobility issues now have a way to get around in these Mattel cars that are customized for them and their disabilities,“ said John Vos.
Three-year-old Emma Germershausen is a recipient of a custom car, she is an identical twin that suffered multiple strokes in the womb, her father says as a result of that she is blind and has cerebral palsy and calls her condition life limiting and detailed a near-death experience she had.
“During Emma’s end of life stay she had in the hospital it was determined that she would pass that afternoon, we had to pull our children out of school and we did all the end of life ritual stuff; cutting a lock of hair, hand prints in the plasticine and we actually had a chaplain come in to pray for her safe passage to heaven.”
Emma fought through it and her family was able to bring her home and say she is relatively stable in her health now.
“If Emma is going to fight to stay with us, we are going to make life as positive and comfortable for her as possible.”
Variety’s toddler mobility program Go Baby Go adapted ride on cars have push button switches, a remote control for parents and custom seating. The program is open to children between the ages of one and four-years-old.
“Our children can now play with each other and interact. It’s been such a blessing, and for that we are eternally grateful. We came today to show people that their donations have made a very tangible difference in Emma’s life”, said Steven Germershausen.
Each car costs around $3,000 and Variety hopes to make over 100 cars this year. Moving forward they welcome new applicants for the program and say they need sponsors.
“As the program has gotten more attention, we have been able to get the manufacturer of the vehicles to do some adaptations that allow us to do less at the time of building”, said Kerry Kasmussen Director of Community Connections at Variety the Children’s Charity.
“It’s important for people to know where their money is going and it’s not going to overhead costs or administration, what we get goes to the children.”
For families that are not as fortunate as the Germershausen’s, Hospice Calgary provides counselling to assist with end of life grief.
“Many of the families that come to us for support don’t have the means to pay for traditional counselling, so we offer a sliding scale so families set their own fee,” said Kari Hoellwarth Intake Coordinator.
“In many instances when a family phones us one of the parents has died, and an income source is gone and they’re stressed about money. We can offer services for them and allow them to pay us whatever they feel they can.”
The intake process was thoughtfully designed to be compassionate and informative.
“The family will call and talk to me, and I can provide them with support in the moment. When we bring the children in, we have a very child friendly environment set up, our counselling rooms look like play rooms. Children love coming to counselling once they are connected because children have a hard time speaking about their feelings, so they show their feelings through play. Counsellors work with them in the playrooms to express their feelings in a playful way using art, play or music, anything that will connect a young person to a counsellor,” said Hoellwarth.
Hospice Calgary’s Children’s Grief Centre supports youth under 19 with their journey adjusting to the loss of a loved one with individual counselling, peer support groups and online resources.
“People who are grieving or living with advanced illness feel alone and isolated, a day like today lets them know Calgarians are reaching out and helping. It makes them feel included,” said Fiona Mccoll the Executive Director of Hospice Calgary.
“It’s really inspiring that Calgarians come together, they are such great supporters of charities and we are just so blessed to be one of the organizations that is getting supported.”