program teams up
with local Children’s Wish Foundation
At three years old Sophie Pilgrim got a severe case of the chicken pox and had to be registered at CHEO. This is when the family discovered that she had chronic neutropenia, a low count of neutrophils – a type of white blood cell – in the blood which compromised her immune system.
Both she and her sister have it.
“It is a symptom of something else, so if we got a fever we had to go to CHEO as soon as possible,” said Pilgrim, now in her late teens.
She eventually discovered she had Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome, which is a life-threatening disease that can lead to bone marrow failure.
“Because of this we have to receive bone marrow checks yearly…, it is not fun,” she said.
Pilgrim is one of 23,146 children that have had their wishes granted thanks to the Children’s Wish Foundation, a charity that grants a wish to children who have a life-threatening illness.
Pilgrim went to Key West and Montego Bay for her wish because she never got to travel. There she received backpacks full of gifts, trading pins and towels shaped into animals. In Key West she visited pirate museums and she received her first kiss when a stingray swam up beside and gave her “mouth-to-mouth.”
“I’m really grateful for the CWF giving me that wish,” said Pilgrim.
It was the kind of story that inspired students of the event management program to host a charity event called Snow Wish and the Evil Queen. At the event, held on March 18, 115 people bought tickets and attended to show support for the Wish children.
“The program has been doing this for 15 years now and we’re almost close to the $1,000,000 cold target. Right now the program has raised $850,000,” according to Nabil Benbouza, an event management student and one of the members of the group designated to set-up the event.
“For the fall intake, we have 16 groups, and the groups usually raise from $1,500 to $6,000. The highest amount of money raised by a group so far is $5,500,” said Benbouza.
Aside from the people who bought tickets, almost everyone who took part in the event volunteered their time. They included Mary Muckle, who played the harp, David Jans, the magician who was the main show at the event, a photographer, seven children in costume as the seven dwarves, Snow White and Prince Charming, and a host of volunteers to supervise the event.
“We had to reach out to a lot of people, explain the cost to them and try to make them help us. Most of them were very helpful, they were very happy to contribute to the cause,” said Benbouza.
As part of the fundraiser, the night consisted of a cocktail hour filled with games for prizes, a bar and a photo-op, a three-course meal and a magic show.
Jans tends to volunteer two to three times a year in support of good causes.
“I know a lot of kids need a lot of help and it’s nice to give back when you can,” said Jans. “When the organizers of this event from Algonquin called me up and said they wanted me to participate in this event, and that they were teaming up with the Children’s Wish Foundation, I thought that it would be a really cool opportunity.”
The attendees seemed quite happy to be there to support the children and also complimented the effort put in to setting up the event.
“It was great, I think they would have enjoyed seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces and that everyone is willing to put in the time to participate,” said Tyler McMahon, one of the attendees.
It was Pilgrim’s first CWF event in a couple of years, but she was satisfied with the amount of work put in to making the night a success.
“As a wish kid, I just like the fact that everyone gives back to help other kids in need,” she said. “When you have to go through all the treatments, you just need some time to smile and it definitely leaves a smile on their faces…, it lets us be kids again.”