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Help Fill A Dream gives sick children the chance to dream big

The foundation turns dreams into realities for children and families with critical conditions

Eva Rasciauskas
May 21, 2024
Sponsored
Created For
Produced for an organization or individual that has paid for and approved the content for publication.

Help Fill A Dream gives sick children the chance to dream big

The foundation turns dreams into realities for children and families with critical conditions

Eva Rasciauskas
May 21, 2024
Photo: Help Fill A Dream
Photo: Help Fill A Dream
Sponsored
Created For
Produced for an organization or individual that has paid for and approved the content for publication.

Help Fill A Dream gives sick children the chance to dream big

The foundation turns dreams into realities for children and families with critical conditions

Eva Rasciauskas
May 21, 2024
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Help Fill A Dream gives sick children the chance to dream big

This article was created for Victoria Foundation, and produced independently by Capital Daily. It was approved by Victoria Foundation before it was published.

When a child is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, life is put on hold until they make a full recovery. Doctor’s appointments, hospital visits and treatment options become main priorities for family members who want nothing more than to see their child live a healthy, normal life.

It’s nothing short of a long and painful experience for everyone involved — but it doesn’t have to be an isolating one. 

Help Fill A Dream is a Victoria-based non-profit organization that is committed to reaching every child on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands to provide them with the medical support needed to get better. By taking care of strenuous financial costs, the foundation gives families a chance to focus on the most important thing at hand: the health and well-being of their child. 

Any child under the age of 20 who has been diagnosed with a serious medical condition or has been referred to by a qualified health professional can apply for one or both of the programs offered: the Family Assistance Program and the request to fulfill a dream. 

The Family Assistance Program is the essence of what Help Fill A Dream does. It provides families with the support they need to help their child get well. Support caters to each child’s needs and can come in many different forms—insulin pumps, orthotics, wheelchairs, specialized beds, vehicle accessibility modifications and travel expenses, to name a few.

Craig Smith, executive director of Help Fill A Dream, emphasizes how much the Family Assistance Program adapts to the specific needs of each family.

“The connection we make to our families is the very heart of what we do. We don't have boxes based on how we provide support,” he explained. 

“We look at each child as an individual and each family as an individual unit and think, ‘what's going to make the most sense right now for this family, at this time?’ And if we stay with the family for a while, that changes along the way,” he said.

As for fulfilling a child’s dream, a trip to Disneyworld is just one of the wishes that Help Fill A Dream has turned into a reality—just as every child’s specific medical needs are cared for, so is their imagination. 

Smith fondly remembers a nine-year-old boy named Lowen fighting cancer, whose dream was to have a pirate ship built in his backyard. 

Immediately getting to work, Smith reached out to a group of tradespeople in Nanaimo who were more than willing to help construct it. The final result? A giant pirate ship playhouse complete with a bunkie for sleepovers, swings, climbing nets and a masthead decorated with his favourite animal at the front. 

“I smile every time I think of that,” said Smith. “To see the community come together and embrace this with such passion always reinforces to me that we’re doing the right thing by connecting with our families like this,” he added.

Smith has collected a long list of heartwarming stories during his 13 years at the foundation. One young boy, Nikko, had a dream of sitting on a beach in Hawaii. Nikko was breathing through a tube which prevented him from being near sand. After several years, he recovered and the foundation made his dream come true. 

Help Fill A Dream also helped six-year-old André regulate his Type 1 diabetes. A year later he decided to pay it forward by collecting bottles downtown and doing handstands to raise money for the foundation. In seven years he raised over $50,000 while encouraging other children to do the same. 

Smith says anyone can help the foundation by donating or applying to volunteer, and any interest is welcome.

Part of the foundation’s mission is to explore brand new ways to help families. They’ve extended support to siblings and family members through initiatives such as a food box program during the COVID-19 pandemic and an art therapy program with the McTavish Academy of Arts. 

Smith says the foundation is grateful to offer any kind of support — whether it’s a $2 Tim Hortons coffee or a $50,000 home renovation. It’s all incredibly valuable.

“I just want people to understand that the support we receive just lets our families know that they're on equal footing with everybody else in the community. That they're seen, that they're heard and that they're valued,” he said.

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