A Mom's hug

A movement started by a mom – that’s Meagan’s Walk. Now in its 17th year, Meagan’s Walk culminates in a human hug that surrounds SickKids with love and hope. Denise Bebenek is the mom behind it. Meagan is her daughter, treated at SickKids for an inoperable brain tumour. When she passed away, Meagan was 5.

Her journey as a SickKids mom galvanized Denise. During Meagan’s illness, she’d felt surrounded by a circle of care. But, as those who’ve been touched by Denise’s energy can tell you, she’s not someone who thinks of herself first. She thought of all the other mothers: “The journey that a mom goes through with a sick child – not just kids with brain tumours – it’s so huge that you feel alone.”
A large group of children and adults waving to patients in the hospital

Today, Meagan’s legacy is the circle of hope Denise envisioned around SickKids. 
Before Meagan’s diagnosis, Denise had no idea that brain tumours are the leading cancer-related cause of death in children. She turned to her daughter’s doctors, asking what could be done. And then, literally, she had a dream – which kept repeating.

The dream was a human hug.

Around Denise’s dining room table, Meagan’s Walk was born. Each year, the fundraising walk and hug take place around Mother’s Day – something that was meant to be. Denise had taken her idea to the mayor, the Chief of Police, and city officials. No one had tried something like this before: administrators thought it was too huge a feat, especially for a mom who had just lost a child. But Denise’s passion obviously resonated.

The next day, representatives from the city and the police were at her door, tears streaming down their faces. They put a permit in her hand, with these words: “This is serendipity. The only day we can close the streets is Mother’s Day.”

The emotional impact of Meagan’s Walk has been incalculable; the financial contribution to brain tumour research – $5 million to date – has put SickKids on the cutting edge. Today, Meagan’s legacy is the circle of hope Denise envisioned around SickKids. It’s perpetuated by an endowment – the Meagan Bebenek: Creating a Circle of Hope Fund – dedicated to finding a cure for all the other Meagans.