Donning a bright yellow vest, Elijah Faraschuk Sarumowa looked the part of a Walmart employee Friday morning. Instead, he was at the St. Albert store to be celebrated.
“It means that I can represent the Stollery and try and help people donate more,” the teen explained.
“The responsibility is: you’ve got to tell your story, you’ve got to inspire others to give and you’ve got to make sure people understand that children’s health is really really important,” added Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation president and CEO Mike House.
Faraschuk Sarumowa has quite the story to share.
The Devon resident was born at 33 week with a congenital heart defect and had his first open-heart surgery was at eight months old. His second happened at seven.
“He actually asked the doctor at that point, ‘Am I dying?'” his tearful mom Tracie Sarumowa said.
“We’re sitting there and it was the hardest thing for us. But the doctor reassuring him, making jokes, everything… Five minutes after that he was laughing.”
At 12 years old, Faraschuk Sarumowa needed to have a valve replaced. Unlike the other surgeries, this was able to be done with a catheter.
“Five years ago, the kind of surgery that he had wasn’t possible,” House pointed out.
“But thanks to the contributions of people who shop at Walmart and contribute through Children’s Miracle Network, we’re able to advance that research so it’s less invasive so he can get back to hockey and playing sports and just being a normal 13-year-old kid.”
To celebrate his new role as a patient ambassador, a celebration was held Friday morning.
Edmonton Oilers player Kyle Turris surprised Faraschuk Sarumowa, an avid hockey fan and goalie.
Then the teen was told he was being gifted a $500 shopping spree in the store.
Faraschuk Sarumowa’s mom had one idea what her son could stock up on.
“Food! He needs to buy his own week’s worth of food!” joked Sue Faraschuk.
Instead, the new champion and two of his best friends headed straight for the electronics department.
Immediately he set his sights on a brand new Xbox but was told it was over budget.
That’s when the store manager stepped in to gift the gaming console to the teen on top of the shopping spree.
That freed up Faraschuk Sarumowa to fill his cart with games and enough controllers for himself and his friends and brother.
The new Champion will represent the Stollery over the next year at multiple events and on social media.
In 2021 alone, there were 317 patient visits to the hospital.