Written by Brenda Cullum-Shergold, Home for Dinner Volunteer and BOWEN Employee
“The best gifts around the Christmas tree is the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.” ~Burton Hills
Sadie Leona-June Peoples, my granddaughter, was born on June 24, 2013 in Barrie, Ontario. Our family was overjoyed. She happily shared her birthday with her loving grandpa Gord, and she was our very first grandchild. Our family had much to celebrate.
Then, the unimaginable happened. We learned Sadie was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), a serious problem where, for unknown reasons, the left side of the heart does not develop properly while the baby is in the mother’s womb. We knew there were risks early in the pregnancy so arrangements were made to get her to Toronto’s SickKids Hospital immediately.
Within 36 hours of her arrival in this world, Sadie quickly underwent open heart surgery. The news was grave. The surgery unveiled numerous leaky values. To survive, Sadie’s only option would be to receive a heart transplant.
Sadie’s parents, Adam and Dalice, knew they would face months of many tests and endless visits. They worried about how they would cope. When they learned there was space available for them at Ronald McDonald House Charities® Toronto, they were extremely relieved. During this difficult journey, the House in Toronto became their home away from home.
When we travelled more than 3,400 kilometers from Calgary to Toronto to be by their side, it became ours, too.
We spent every waking moment with Sadie and her parents. It was a relief to know that we didn’t have to worry about anything except taking care of our family. It’s hard to put into words the support you receive from the staff and volunteers at Ronald McDonald House. While they take care of everything so that families can focus on their child, it goes far beyond that. They understand, they nurture, and they support. The House is truly a safe harbour from the storm.
Sadly, on August 19, 2013, Sadie’s journey came to an end. Her little body just wasn’t strong enough to hold on.
Today, I’m inspired to give back. When you’ve experienced something so amazing, in such difficult circumstances, you want to do more. We know too well what it’s like to be away from family and friends during tough times. I can only imagine it’s even harder during the holidays.
That’s why our family volunteers on Christmas Day to cook brunch at Ronald McDonald House. We can’t think of a better way to spend the day. As a blended family of six, were are lucky to have what we need. For us, spending time together is more important than gifts.
So, instead we spend our day making my famous granola, maybe baking our favourite cookies, or simply sharing a special moment with one of the kids at the House, well we couldn’t ask for anything more. We hope Sadie is proud of us. After all, isn’t that the true magic of Christmas?
On a very happy note, Adam and Dalice recently blessed us with Granddaughter No. 2: Paisley Sadie Peoples was born on May, 12, 2015.
For unknown reasons, in children with HLHS, the left side of the heart does not develop properly while the baby is in the mother’s womb. HLHS is a serious problem that involves several parts of the left side of the heart. It is quite rare and occurs in about one out of every 5,000 babies born. In the United States, about 1,000 babies with HLHS are born each year. Two thirds of the babies affected are boys. Most babies with HLHS are otherwise healthy, but some have other medical problems including other heart problems, neurologic problems, and Turner’s syndrome.
Giving back is a top priority at BOWEN and part of our corporate culture. In fact, our employee-led community contribution is an integral part of our organization and one of the top reasons people say they like working with us. Last year, Ronald McDonald House, and in particular, the Home for Dinner program, was chosen as one of our charities of choice. We select specific charities that link to our corporate values, community investment strategy and offer great synergies with our marketing and business development efforts. Ronald McDonald House is one of those charities. It’s about making our community a better place for everyone and creating a legacy of caring and compassion. Over the past five years, BOWEN has contributed more than $500,000 to worthwhile causes.