Year at a glance 2019/20
While remarkable progress has been made in overcoming childhood illnesses, there are still too many kids and families who learn that debilitating symptoms are life-long, who live with a constant fear of the unknown, and who will shoulder the burden of illness alone, in silence.
But for every single illness, there are countless more extraordinary people—like you—who believe that, together, this reality is within our power to change. Your commitment and generosity this past year fueled our quest to do just that in so many ways for all kids across BC.
Here’s the progress that you made possible.
BRINGING NEW HOPE WHEN IT’S NEEDED MOST
After being diagnosed with cancer in 1994, Michael Cuccione, along with his parents, set out to create a foundation devoted to advancing research into the devastating disease. Michael sadly passed away at the age of 16, but his determination to make a difference in the lives of other kids who are battling cancer continues to be felt.
This past year, generous support through the Michael Cuccione Foundation—a long-standing partner over the past 25 years—enabled BC Children’s to take an important step forward in its quest to improve outcomes for kids with hard-to-treat cancers. Led by BC Children’s physician Dr. Amanda Li and team, the first CAR T-cell therapy trial at the hospital enrolled a child for this innovative form of immunotherapy—making BC Children’s one of only a handful of pediatric hospitals in Canada approved to offer the ground-breaking treatment.
CAR T-cell therapy involves removing the body’s own immune cells, genetically reprogramming them to seek and destroy cancer cells, and then putting them back into the body, where they continue to multiply to fight cancer. While it isn’t without risk, the therapy has the potential to bring long remissions, and even cures, to patients who have no treatment options left.
ANOTHER CHANCE TO BEAT CANCER
Despite all the progress made in childhood cancer, there are still too many kids who will endure months of treatments and countless tests, only to learn that their cancer has returned.
Leading cancer experts at BC Children’s Hospital, Drs. Rebecca Deyell and Rod Rassekh, are working with all 16 pediatric hospitals across the country on a first-of-its-kind initiative in Canada aimed at giving children another chance to beat their cancer. It’s called PROFYLE (short for PRecision Oncology For Young peopLE) and it looks at the molecular profile of tumours to better understand why they haven’t responded to conventional therapies. Armed with this information, experts can then identify new drugs that specifically target those tumour cells.
Last year, 15 kids at BC Children’s were enrolled in the initiative—and results have shown great potential to open the door to new treatments that are helping children overcome cancer and experience reduced side effects.
“Traditionally, cancer treatment has been very non-specific. PROFYLE is enabling us to be smarter about finding the specific drugs that target the cell that’s driving a cancer.”
– Dr. Rebecca Deyell
RUNNING WITH HOPE
Lisa Hopkins’ son Jordan was just two years old when he was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma—a rare and aggressive form of childhood cancer. When celebrating Jordan’s 10th year of being cancer-free, Lisa knew she wanted to help other families going through similar journeys. She started Team4Hope to do exactly that.
Last year, the Victoria-based fundraising team reached another major milestone: 10 years of fundraising for BC Children’s Hospital. Through holding two signature events—Handbags for Hope and Touch a Truck—as well as by competing in marathons across North America, Team4Hope has raised an astounding $500,000 over the past decade. Their tireless efforts have made it possible for researchers to conduct innovative studies to better understand aggressive forms of childhood cancer, as well as to pursue new, life-changing treatments.
“On the day she passed away, I remember telling Elise and her mom that as long as I can put one foot in front of the other, I will continue to run these races in support of kids like her.”
— Lisa Hopkins, founder of Team4Hope
CHANGING THE TRAJECTORY OF KIDS’ LIVES
Despite having proven treatments, many kids and youth with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) struggle to receive an accurate diagnosis and timely care—which makes the illness that much harder to treat. Deeply motivated to help more children across the province get the specialized care they need, the Wesik family gave generously to BC Children’s Provincial OCD Program.
Through this support, researchers were able to advance studies aimed at better understanding the cause of the illness, educate health care providers across the province on treatments, and run the annual, month-long intensive care program called Camp OCD—which has helped make a positive difference in the lives of kids with the illness.
“If OCD is diagnosed and treated early, the potential to shift the lives of children and teens is huge.”
– Dr. Evelyn Stewart, director of the provincial OCD program
As a long-time patient of BC Children’s Hospital, McKenna, now in her teens, struggled with her chronic pain for years. It was only when she gained coping skills through the hospital’s new Centre for Mindfulness, launched last June, that she learned how to manage her pain.
In its first year, the Centre for Mindfulness has already played an important part in helping children, families and health care providers learn and strengthen their mindfulness practice to cope with difficulties that range from physical pain to mental challenges to daily stress.
The incredible support of donors like you made it possible for BC Children’s to be home to one of the first-of-its-kind mindfulness centres at a children’s hospital globally. One of its key goals is to promote a mindful community and compassionate care at the hospital and through online channels.
A RELIABLE MENTAL HEALTH TOOL
BC Children’s Hospital emergency physician Dr. Quynh Doan knew that up to 70 per cent of youth who visit an emergency department have an underlying mental health condition—but as little as 10 per cent seek care for it.
That startling fact drove her to create a digital tool, called MyHEARTSMAP, to help youth and families self-assess mental health conditions during trips to the emergency department.
Not only can MyHEARTSMAP identify problems early and halt the development of life-long conditions, it also recommends support services. And according to recent research, it’s incredibly effective: results show it’s 93 per cent accurate in identifying mental health issues.
“Youth don’t always see their doctors on a regular basis, so we want to take advantage of every interaction we have to assess and manage their mental health needs,” Dr. Doan said.
A NEW BEGINNING FOR SUNNY HILL
Thanks to the tremendous generosity of donors who shared our vision in providing the best care at Sunny Hill Health Centre, this new facility designed with patients’ needs at the forefront will open on the hospital’s campus later this summer.
The extraordinary gifts of so many enabled us to raise $14 million for the Sunny Hill Health Centre Enhancement Initiative, and made it possible to create a healing environment at Sunny Hill, complete with patient-centered construction enhancements, state-of-the-art equipment and purposeful art that will enable the Sunny Hill health care team to deliver care specifically designed for kids there.
We are deeply grateful to our leadership donors who have helped make this all possible:
- Thomas and Ann Blauuw and Family
- Dr. Hilary and Patsy Hui
- Lalji Family
- Djavad Mowafaghian
The philanthropy of these caring donors was joined by many others in our community, including the Auxiliary to BC Children’s Hospital, and the Avery Linton Legacy Foundation.
In particular, the astounding support of the Chinese-Canadian community, including many longstanding donors, community and business leaders, and dedicated volunteers, helped ensure the great success of the initiative. This community, from its visionary leadership gifts and the For Children We Care gala, to fundraising initiatives like Chinese-Canadian Miracle Weekend and SHINE Mother’s Day Tea, was instrumental in raising a significant portion of the funds needed to bring the project to life.
“It’ll be an amazing benefit to be on the same site. We can start focusing on specific rehabilitation needs of patients while they’re still in acute care. And our team will be able to connect with all parts of the hospital’s campus so much more easily.”
— Leeann Taylor, Program Manager, Acute Rehabilitation Program
A BRAND-NEW FACILITY
Every detail of the new space has been designed for the specific needs of Sunny Hill’s unique patient populations. For example, Sunny Hill’s therapy spaces can be adapted for individual kids’ mobility needs—including movable floors in the pool and state-of-the-art technology in the gym.
Recreational and home-like spaces feature designated dining areas, places for relaxation, and a child play area, while the outdoor garden includes varying terrains for mobility training as well as quiet spaces.
Artwork throughout Sunny Hill will help create a healing environment, and every piece has been designed to support the therapeutic needs of each space. For example, animal art on treatment and assessment room doors will help patients identify the rooms without using numbers, which can preoccupy and distract some children.
When the new Sunny Hill opens on the BC Children’s campus, kids and families will receive integrated care in one location, where the brightest medical minds will be able to collaborate in ways never before possible.
With this integration and its patient-focused enhancements, Sunny Hill will enter a new phase of specialized patient care while it carries on its legacy as a close-knit, welcoming community.
“This is going to feel more like home to patient families. Having this brand-new facility with beautiful artwork everywhere you go, and up-to-date equipment… it’s going to create a beautiful experience.”
— Rachel Hasebe, patient mom & representative, member of Sunny Hill Art Committee
GOING WITH OUR GUT
Around 10,000 kids in BC live with chronic inflammatory diseases, ranging from arthritis to inflammatory bowel disease. Many endure long-term pain, invasive procedures and treatment with serious side effects.
With the visionary support of Mining for Miracles, the BC mining industry’s longstanding fundraising campaign for the hospital, there’s now hope for these kids. They raised $3.725 million for Gut4Health, Canada’s first research initiative of its kind looking at how gut bacteria can predict, prevent and treat infections and chronic inflammation in kids. The goal? Better treatments, and even cures, for these diseases.
PURSUING FASTER AND LESS PAINFUL THERAPIES
Inspired by the innovative work of Dr. Kourosh Afshar, associate chief of surgery, quality and safety at BC Children’s, Mohammad H. Mohseni Foundation is helping to advance research that will transform the ways urological conditions among kids are diagnosed and treated. The hospital’s urology clinic sees over 6,000 patient visits each year for issues ranging from hernias to those requiring complex reconstructive operations.
One study on non-invasive near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS)—which uses a special light to ‘see’ body tissue—is testing pain-free monitoring of kidney function after a transplant, and could help to identify problems sooner.
The hope is that this and other research will ultimately lead to better health outcomes for kids with serious urological conditions throughout the entire province.
GETTING TO THE ROOT OF GENETIC DISEASES
“For children with a rare genetic disease, it’s a journey of trying to find an answer. Whether it’s a blood draw or a scan that has to be done, every one of these is an invasion in the life of that child that creates difficulty on top of difficulty,” says Dr. Wyeth Wasserman, vice president of research at BC Children’s Hospital.
Dr. Wasserman is describing the experience of thousands of kids who visit the hospital each year with unexplained genetic conditions. Even after months or even years of exhausting specialist visits and painful tests, many families are still left looking for answers.
With incredible philanthropy from the 33rd Annual Crystal Ball Gala, a remarkable $3.8 million was raised for next-generation technologies, which can provide long sought-after answers, or possibly even cures, with the help of a single test. Inspired by the possibilities, the Greczmiel family, the Hudson family, and the Milan & Maureen Ilich Foundation each made significant contributions toward the initiative.
With this support for this next frontier of precision medicine for genetic conditions, children with unexplained genetic conditions now have hope for a brighter future.
HEALING THROUGH ART
Kids are unique—and it’s important that their care prioritizes the fact that every experience they have today can impact them over their lifetime. You played an important role to help kids be kids, even in the hospital.
“Art is a powerful mechanism for kids to express themselves—often in ways they can’t with words,” says Nicki Elischer. As a child life specialist and certified art therapist at BC Children’s, Nicki knows first-hand how powerful art can be in helping kids convey their feelings, thoughts and needs.
Many kids across the province took part in the hospital’s creative arts program this past year, thanks to donors like you who believe in the healing power of art. It’s just one of the many diverse ways the hospital’s Child and Youth Therapeutic Services team helps kids at the hospital cope during some of their most difficult times.
DONORS HELP ENSURE BC’S KIDS RECEIVE CARE DESIGNED FOR THEM IN ALL DIFFERENT WAYS—LIKE ANNALISA AND MIKE WHITTLE, WHO WERE INSPIRED TO GIVE ANNUALLY AFTER BC CHILDREN’S SAVED THEIR DAUGHTER MAKENA’S LIFE.
One size doesn’t fit all in children’s health care—especially when it comes to equipment. Last year, remarkable donor support from individuals and organizations across BC funded over 120 pieces of equipment designed specifically for kids. Here are a couple of them.
If a child experiencing vision loss doesn’t receive timely care, they may have life-long challenges because a young brain needs stimulation to learn and develop. Last year, donors funded vital pieces of equipment that help physicians to diagnose eye conditions—including two new ophthalmoscopes, which use special wireless technology to allow them to see deep inside the eye, and provides more mobility to treat younger patients with extreme care and precision.
Thanks to a generous gift from Mark and Ellen Brown from Kamloops, BC Children’s was able to acquire a new, life-saving heart and lung support system for intensive care patients. The Extracorporeal Life Support System (ECLS) is vital in keeping a child’s heart and lungs working when they are unable to function on their own.
A LEGACY TO REMEMBER
Jim Bolster was the kind of person whom everyone liked being around. Having spent his entire life in Smithers, BC, he was an amazing fisherman and passionate about hockey. He always cared about kids and made them smile and laugh. And, he was the best Bobcat operator in Northern BC.
However, from an early age, he experienced a number of complex health issues. He was diagnosed with diabetes, suffered a severe foot infection for years, and learned he had congestive heart failure in his 40s.
Jim loved children and didn’t want to see them experience similar health issues, so he was determined to leave a legacy that would help create a better future for them. After suffering a heart attack, Jim knew he had to act quickly to put a plan into place to make that possible. While he waited at the hospital for a medevac plane to bring him to Vancouver for emergency care, Jim asked his close friend Dean Moore to be the executor of his Will—a role that Dean accepted without any hesitation.
Jim passed away at the age of 51, leaving an extraordinary legacy gift of $1 million to BC Children’s Hospital Foundation that has supported the hospital’s greatest needs, which is helping experts to provide life-saving care.
“Jim always wanted to give others a good chance in life—and felt kids deserved that more than anyone. I know he would have a big smile on his face knowing what he made possible.”
A STRONG FINANCIAL YEAR
With the continued generosity of our donors and success of our fundraising initiatives, BC Children’s Hospital Foundation once again saw strong financial performance during its last fiscal year (April 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020).
From a fundraising perspective, it was a record-breaking year on many fronts—corporate and community giving generated $21 million for another year, direct response marketing raised over $8 million, and over $14 million was received through legacy gifts. And despite the postponement of the 25th Annual For Children We Care Gala, revenues raised through the Foundation’s events exceeded $6 million from the past year.
Both the Dream and Choices Lotteries sold out early and generated over $8.7 million in net revenue from the past fiscal year, which has helped push forward ground-breaking research and spark new discoveries in children’s health.
Despite the negative impact of market correction on investment income during February and March 2020 due to concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic, BC Children’s Hospital Foundation made significant contributions to BC Children’s, including its Research Institute, child and adolescent mental health programs and Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children.
The above revenue streams enabled $55 million to be contributed to help advance research, equipment, training, clinical care enhancements and programs that are playing a profound role in helping experts to tackle childhood illnesses. Funds also supported the Sunny Hill Enhancement Initiative, which will help create and enhance a purpose-built rehabilitation and developmental services facility on the BC Children’s Hospital campus.
Without your help, we can’t do what we do.
You’re helping us make real progress in tackling childhood illnesses in BC—progress that wouldn’t be possible without your heartfelt generosity.
We are especially grateful during this time of great uncertainty. Through it all, your unwavering support continues to fuel life-changing advancements in child health.
Facing today’s challenges—from childhood cancer to mental health, from chronic illnesses to mobility limitations—requires courage and determination. And, because of you, we are making major strides in these and many other areas. But our work is far from over, and because of that, we are so grateful to have you by our side.
Thank you for your continued generosity and compassion and for helping BC’s kids fulfill their hopes and dreams.