People & Places

CHEO for the Kids gala goes virtual with online auction and fashion show

Every year, the CHEO community gathers for a special event that sees patients, families, and supporters raise money and awareness for their special programs that serve children and youth with physical and behavioural disabilities. Like many events this spring, social distancing meant the CHEO for the Kids gala had to be cancelled. But the gala committee rallied to ensure that the young people still got a chance to dress up!

“The kids and families were definitely looking forward to participating in the event,” says community engagement director Lydia Blanchard. “Thankfully even though we had to cancel the in-person part of the Gala, we were still able to give the kids their moment in the spotlight by creating a fashion show video!”

By connecting sponsor St Laurent Shopping Centre with the kids (and their families) before the retail stores had to shut down, the team was able to share the joy of dressing up with a wider audience. Below, the kids can be seen dressed up in their new outfits, twirling and strutting in the comfort and safety of their own homes. “You can tell by their smiling faces that they had a lot of fun putting the video together,” says Blanchard.

Plus, the online auction will continue — we’ve highlighted some of the items below — so there’s still time to support CHEO. “These kids all have such positive and determined spirits, so it was inspiring to see that enthusiasm reflected in the video, even though the actual event wasn’t able to happen this year,” says Blanchard. “Meeting the kids and their families is honestly the best part of our jobs.” 

With just a week left to bid on the auction items, we asked Blanchard what she’s missing most — and what has caught her eye in this year’s auction.

In past years, what has been your favourite part of the gala?​
There are several legacy elements of this event that we have maintained throughout the transition between the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre and CHEO. One element I really like is the interactive “show and tell” concept at the event, where the attendees get to try out some of the equipment (like driving a power wheelchair, using an eye gaze machine, playing with adaptive tech toys, etc.), and engage with some of the staff and families who are directly involved in Development and Rehabilitation at CHEO. 

There is also a really great sense of community that this event highlights every year. It shines a spotlight on a patient population that isn’t as talked about or understood as some of our other programs (like oncology, cardiology, etc.). There are people who have attended this event for years and years, because they have such a deep rooted connection to the cause. 

A GroBag, donuts for a year, and a private dinner for 8 with the High Commissioner for Malaysia are among the offerings in the year’s CHEO auction

What do you hope to achieve this year?​
​Our goal this year is to still achieve the maximum possible fundraising impact in support of these families, even though the event had to be cancelled. It is our hope that by sharing the videos of the kids’ fashion show and Mikayla’s CHEO story, we can inspire the community to help us make a difference in the lives of these families, who are all faced with their own unique challenges in addition to having to worry about their health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These families need our support now more than ever, so even though we can’t bring people together physically to accomplish that, we are so grateful for the sponsors who have stood by us, the donors who have honoured their gifts for our online auction, and the individuals who are bidding on the auction or making straight donations to support the cause. 

Is there anything in the online auction you are particularly excited about? ​
These are some of the unique items that would be fun/exciting to highlight for your readers — like a private  sight-seeing plane tour of Ottawa and a VIP tour of Gees Bees Honey Farm — as well as a couple of the big trip packages to get everyone daydreaming of some day getting to travel again!

Bid on such items as a Mount Pakenham pass, a Gucci watch, and a session at Top Kart go-carting at this year’s CHEO For the Kids auction