News Item

January 15, 2010

The Masons of Manitoba and CancerCare Manitoba Celebrate 25 Years of Partnership

On December 18, about 70 young CancerCare Manitoba patients and their families gathered at the MacCharles Unit to cheer, giggle and celebrate at CCMB's 25th Annual Kids' Holiday Party.

The star of the show was Juno Award-winning entertainer, Al Simmons.  Simmons kept the audience singing and smiling with his zany props and his wacky lyrics.  The kids and their guests also enjoyed snacks, gifts and a visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

A party like this, however, does not come together easily, or for free.  CCMB is grateful to the Masons of Manitoba for their financial support of the party for the past quarter-century.  The Masons, who number 2,800 in Manitoba, have been the sole sponsor for the past 20 years.

"The Masons of Manitoba are the real-life Mr. and Mrs. Clause.  I think it's absolutely amazing that they have been putting on the Christmas party for 25 years.  They have only thought of these kids year after year and want to make their Christmas all that it can be," said Gail J., the mother of Joshua, a patient at CancerCare.

Joshua is almost five and has been getting treatment for his acute lymphoblastic leukemia since the age of three.

"Joshua loves to go to CancerCare  especially if it does not include treatment or a poke. Having a special reason makes this boy even happier!" said Gail.  "He loves the idea of cookies and chocolate milk and seeing friends and a special nurse there, and of course the gift sure doesn't hurt either!"

"This is a highlight of the year for our kids," said pediatric oncologist Dr. Sara Israels.  "This is an unbelievable commitment by the Masons and I think they understand what a highlight this is for our patients and their families.  And they don't just support it, they participate in it.  They have made this ongoing commitment and it means a lot to us."
(from left to right): C. Rae Haldane-Wilsone, Dr. Sara Israels, David Love, Al Simmons, Allan Hadley, Dawn Kidder, Kris Goodmanson and Ken Butchart

Dr. Israels explained the party is a vital exercise in providing CCMB patients with a "happy event" in an environment normally associated with medical treatment.  The value of the event is even greater for kids who can't venture out because of the risk of infection, and for kids and families who live outside of Winnipeg.

"We try to treat the whole patient and whole family," said Dr. Israels.  "The focus is on child-and-family-centered care.  Celebrating events together is part of that."

For the Masons themselves, the kids' holiday party is about far more than writing a cheque.  They play central roles at the event.   Mason Ken Buchert and his wife Mary play Santa and Mrs. Claus.

"I was here for my first party in 1997 and was moved by the experience," said Grand Secretary C. Rae Haldane-Wilsone who was accompanied by five fellow Masons at this year's party.  "Being here fires up the commitment a bit more."

"The party contributes to people's quality of life,:" said 77-year-old Haldane-Wilsone, himself a cancer survivor.  "We feel great pride in being able to help families reduce their stress."

Both Haldane-Wilsone and Dr. Israels reserved special praise for Dawn Kidder, the Child Life Specialist who has been coordinating the party for 24 years.

"She's entirely committed to this patient population. She does more than just show up and do her job," said Dr. Israels.  She's been a 'key person' added Haldane-Wilsone.

"We're extremely proud of this event and very grateful for the significant commitment demonstrated by the Masons," said Dr. Dhali Dhaliwal, President and CEO.  "These fine and compassionate Manitobans truly understand the immense importance of community involvement and benevolence."


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