How it came about:
When the SickKids Atrium was receiving its finishing touches
in 1992, the construction firm faced a challenge. Streams of people continually
poured through the doors at SickKids and needed to be directed around
construction, or onto alternate pathways when a whole section was closed off
(like Main Street,
down the centre of the hospital, while it was being finished).
How to show them where to go? A creative assistant came up
with the answer. Lay acrylic footprints where you want people to go and have
someone at the information desk instruct people to “follow the footprints.”
Messias Farias, now a project manager in Facilities
Development at The Hospital for Sick Children, was then working for the
contractor finishing the Atrium. It was
his task to lay the footprints and to remove and re-lay them as work zones
The idea worked. The footprints were easily seen and easily
followed, and, thanks to Messias’ hard work, fairly easily moved for
They were also a hit. Small children coming to the hospital
would step their way along the footprints – it became a favourite game. When
construction was finished, Mike Strofolino, then President and CEO of SickKids,
asked that they be placed permanently down Main Street.
Messias was the man for the job. He says he wanted to make the permanent
prints spaced for a child and considered bringing in his little girl to space
them. But no, all the footprint moving –
including the permanent installation – had to be done late at night, too late
for a little one to be out of bed. So Messias improvised by imagining his
daughter’s little steps and peeled and placed the vinyl where she might have
trod, one print at a time.
How they are made to
The footprints are a 3M product that was specially made for
SickKids. They had to be especially tough to endure the heavy traffic. Today
they cost $13.75 apiece.
They have, in their 17-year life (1992-2009), had to be
replaced five times, and they have just been renewed yet again. The hospital’s
Housekeeping team does the job – removing layers of wax and sealer, then the
footprint and laying the new one. Then a fresh coat of sealer finishes the job.
The multicoloured footprints in Main Street are the first laid – later
others in a plain orange were added leading the way to the food court in the
The Footprints and
Besides bringing delight to our little visitors (and most
staff admit they have traced the walk as well) the footprints continue to serve
our philanthropy. For a series of telethons in the mid 90s, they helped
volunteers find their way to their dinner!
The phone bank where the volunteers were working was some distance from
where food was set up, so the instruction to volunteers was, “Follow the
And last, they provided an opportunity to honour the
generosity of one of SickKids leaders and best friends. Jim Pitblado, a long-serving
board member at SickKids, had made numerous, generous gifts to SickKids,
culminating in funding for the first research Chair at the SickKids Research
Institute. There was nothing in the hospital
or Research Institute that acknowledged his long history of philanthropy and
leadership. So, on February 23, 2004 – six years to the day after the
inauguration of the Pitblado Chair in Cell Biology (February 23, 1998) –
SickKids Foundation dedicated the Jim Pitblado Footpath in his honour.
I want to send huge congratulations to our friends in the
North for being the number one Walmart store in Canada for fundraising as part of a
Children’s Miracle Network initiative.
On Tuesday, July 21, SickKids
Foundation celebrated the success of the North Bay Walmart for raising almost $50,000
in miracle balloon sales for the 2009 Children’s Miracle Network campaign. This
is an outstanding amount for a community that is comprised of approximately
54,000 residents. To show this store how truly proud we are, representatives
from the Foundation (include me!) travelled to North Bay to host a celebration and to
acknowledge the store management, employees and community for their outstanding
support. Local media also showed up to cover and share this good news throughout
the Northern region.
Each year, Walmart associates
across Canada reach out to their communities by selling miracle balloons and conducting
in-store fundraising campaigns for one month to support their local Children’s
Miracle Network hospital. In North Bay, funds
raised support The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto.
In 2008, SickKids saw more
than 200 patients from the North Bay
area. The funds raised during this campaign will not only benefit these
patients but will be used towards the Foundation’s highest priority needs for
SickKids, which includes patient care, equipment and research. SickKids is one
of the best children’s hospitals in the world. It is one of the largest
paediatric academic health science centres in North America and it conducts
more research than any other paediatric health-care institution in Canada. On
average we see 100,000 patients per year.
We are so proud of the North
Bay Walmart. This year, 312 Walmart stores participated in the miracle balloon
campaign and North Bay
came out as number one. The store’s management and employees, along with the
entire community have shown generous support to our hospital. The funds this
community raised are outstanding and it’s a great example of a small town with
a big heart.
Thank you North Bay, your community serves as a
reminder that great things can be accomplished despite hard economic times. The
children we serve at SickKids are in need of the most specialized care and we
depend on support from all communities near and far to continue to provide the
very best in equipment, care and medical breakthroughs.
On Friday, June 19, the Epilepsy Classroom at SickKids packed up for the summer. That last day of term was one big party: a water fight on the lawn, a pizza party followed by ice-cream cake, computer games, playing pool in Marnie’s Lounge, (a SickKids hang-out for older patients and used by the Epilepsy Classroom for lunch, a cooking program and special occasions like this one), and No Classes.
Summer and the end of term are always great reasons to celebrate.
But the kids in the Epilepsy Classroom have their own special reasons – for five months, under the guidance of experts, they had been achieving, where before they had not.
Christina Williams is one of the kids who graduated from the Classroom on that Friday, and her mother Lisa can give you chapter and verse on the difference it has made.
“Christina has gone up a whole grade level in five months which she hadn’t done in the last seven years.”
Christina’s academic progress had stopped, and the stress of that was helping bring on seizures.
At the end of 2008 she had a history of struggle and frustration at school.
At the end of five months in the Epilepsy Classroom she was able to proudly display a report card showing real progress. What makes the Classroom so effective?
Lots of things.
Lisa Williams lists (in Christina’s case) freedom from seizures!
Christina went from seizures every week to none at all
in the five months she was in the Classroom.
As well as this amazing indicator of stress reduction there are:
- Being in a smaller group;
- A straightforward academic day, without all the extra-curricular busy-nesses that go with regular school;
- Lessons geared to her learning level, where she could learn and be proud of her progress; and
- Teachers who gave her one-on-one attention and who were there to keep her focused on what she was doing.
Her mother is so proud:
“Christina now has a better sense of what she needs to do as far as her learning goes. She knows how to tell the teacher when things have gotten too far ahead of her and why she needs to go back – and start again if necessary. In other words, she knows how to advocate for herself. Which is what the kids have to do when they get into high school – advocate for themselves.”
Miriam Riches is the Special Education Teacher responsible for the day to day programming of the Classroom. The method of teaching is Direct Instruction, an approach that is founded in research conducted in the Classroom itself. It is intensive and done in small groups, so Miriam develops unique Individual Education Plans for each of the students. This is one reason why the Classroom can only take eight students each term, younger ones (Grades 1-5) in the fall and older students (Grades 5-8) in the spring. The children have significant academic needs, as well as the medical needs related to their epilepsy.
To qualify for the Classroom’s special services a child has to have intractable epilepsy, that is, persistent seizure activity despite maximal medical treatment, and be followed by a neurologist. Academically they must be underachieving in at least one academic area on standardized testing, or show persistent underachievement on a daily basis in their home school classroom.
The eight students who qualify on these grounds go into an experience enriched by enormous care and support.
Besides Miriam, there are two classroom assistants who instruct and oversee the children each day; a social worker and psychologist who provide services to the classroom each week, a developmental paediatrician who provides an assessment for each student during the term, a neurologist who is available on an as needed basis and support staff, students and volunteers.
Psychologist Elizabeth Kerr heads up the Epilepsy Classroom. She coordinates referrals and is involved in intake assessments of students. During the term, she conducts neuropsychological assessments of the students to gain a better understanding of their learning profiles and needs.
It may look like a huge team for eight kids, but with the challenges these kids are facing, that’s what it takes.
And yes, they do research. Activities of Daily Living in Children with Intractable Epilepsy, for instance, is a recently published study that sought to learn how best to assess the problems presented to children with intractable epilepsy by the simple activities of daily living. Activities such as shoelace tying, fastening zippers or buttons, printing or writing cursive, independent self-feeding and preparing backpacks for school. This is a first round study. Once the methods for assessment are established, the study will progress to looking at larger groups of children and zero in on those daily living activities. The understanding gained will help clinicians and researchers determine the best way to help these kids both acquire these basic skills and achieve more independence at school and at home. Rather, as Lisa Williams put it, it’s like giving kids the confidence and savvy to advocate for themselves in the classroom – and everywhere. And what do the kids think? Christina took a minute from playing pool in Marnie’s (she’s getting good!) to answer that question. Asked if she enjoyed the Classroom this year she said “Yes,” because she got A’s. And when asked if that was fun, she said firmly:
“It’s sure better than failing.”