SASKATOON — The community came together to raise funds for the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan at the second annual Knights of Columbus Celebrity Dinner, held at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon.
Local philanthropists, sports guests, families of children with medical needs, parishioners, and community members gathered for the Oct. 16 event organized by Knights of Columbus Council 8215.
The dinner, auctions and draws held throughout the evening raised $65,000 for the Children’s Hospital, which is under construction adjacent to Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon.
“We brought some special people together for this event,” said Garry Maier, fundraising committee chair, pointing to the featured guests for the evening — local philanthropists Les and Irene Dubé, John Chick of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, and Michael “Pinball” Clemens, vice-chair and former player and head coach of the Toronto Argonauts.
Jana Len of the Saskatchewan Children’s Hospital Foundation thanked the Knights of Columbus for their support for the hospital, expected to open in 2019.
The program’s most poignant moment was a presentation by Holy Family parishioner Brielle Lepp, the mother of a child who has been hospitalized many times.
Brielle is the co-chair of the Children’s Services Patient and Family Advisory Council in the Saskatoon Health Region, which has a key role in providing input into the design of the new Children’s Hospital. Brielle introduced her husband Greg and her three children, describing how the Children’s Hospital is a cause close to their hearts.
“Our oldest son Jacob was born extremely premature,” she said, relating how Jacob weighed one pound, 10 ounces at birth and has overcome many obstacles over the past 10 years.
“Jacob spent the first four-and-a-half months of his life in the neonatal intensive care unit and has had many extensive and life-threatening admissions to hospital throughout his life. He has had 16 surgeries so far, and we know he will need more,” said Brielle.
Living with a rare heart arrhythmia, Jacob has an internal defibrillator that has many times saved his life.
“We have travelled out of province to receive specialized care that is not accessible in Saskatchewan,” added Brielle, describing how the entire family is affected when Jacob is in hospital.
“There are so many things that I can’t wait to happen in the new Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan,” Brielle said, pointing to the specialized care and equipment it will provide, and such features as family spaces on each unit.
Families never know when they will need this kind of support, Brielle noted. “Never would I have ever imagined needing the hospitalized care that we’ve had, and never would I have imagined that this was going to be the path that God would take our family down,” Brielle said.
“But despite the suffering, this has proven to be absolutely beautiful, because of the people that we have met along the way,” she said.
“We are simply one face of the many families that are going to be helped by your generosity,” she concluded. “On behalf of my family and all the other families that are affected by a sick or injured child, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you and God bless you.”
Master of ceremonies Rev. David Tumback, Holy Family pastor and chaplain to Knights of Columbus Council 8215, said the call to discipleship involves going to the fringes to serve those in need.
During the evening, Tumback joined co-host and radio personality Ray Morrison to welcome guests such as Mayor Don Atchison (grandfather of Jacob Lepp), Abbot Peter Novecosky, OSB, and the evening’s featured speakers.
Les and Irene Dubé, Holy Family parishioners who are known throughout the community for their philanthropy, spoke about their life and careers and what brought about their eventual decision to direct the profits of their business ventures toward charity.
“We certainly give credit to our faith,” said Les Dubé. “God has enriched our lives beyond words.”
Irene added: “Faith is something that guides us. The Holy Spirit is there for us, and this is why we do what we do. God put us on this earth for a reason, and we found the reason.”
The dinner continued with another special guest, John Chick, defensive end for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who talked about football, faith and family.
Named the CFL’s most outstanding defensive player after the 2009 season, Chick has helped the Roughriders capture the Grey Cup twice. He was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when he was 14, and wears an insulin pump at all times. He and his wife are expecting their eighth child in December, and are active in their Catholic parish in Regina.
Chick admitted the 2015 football season has been a frustrating one for the team and for fans. “Saskatchewan knows about tough years . . . it really makes you appreciate the good years,” he said. “We are looking forward to a better season next year.”
The final speaker of the evening was Michael “Pinball” Clemens, the vice-chair for the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts. He played with the team for 12 seasons and twice served as head coach.
“If you want to show me a truly great person, don’t tell me about their records or awards, their money or power. If you want to show me a truly great person, show me what that person has done for someone else,” said Clemens. “Service is nothing more than love in work clothes.”
Clemens commended the Knights of Columbus and all those who have found the “sweet spot” of community by “gathering like this, to benefit others.”