“I am determined to lay out my secrets, my stories, and my lies in this book. Within these leather walls is the truth. These are my confessions,” said a woman’s voice in thedark, smoky venue.
CASA Cares presented their “Confessions” fashion show last Thursday at Marche Bonsecours. Guests were treated to hot fashions, dancing and shopping to benefit the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation.
While most confess secrets and wishes to their diaries, children receiving treatment at the Montreal Children’s Hospital are likely more concerned with hair loss due to chemotherapy or coping with the trauma of amputated limbs.
Before the show began, Helen Magdalinos, a Child Life Specialist at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, graced the runway and spoke about the pet therapy program offered at the hospital.
“It’s a truly amazing program. The dogs bring life to the kids,” she said, tearing up as images of children were projected onto three screens behind the white runway, showing the bond between hospital staff and patients. Child life specialists ensure that a sick child’s inevitable hospital stay will be the least traumatizing possible. This is a tremendous task, especially when working with a hospital budget.
The pet therapy program is a collaboration between the hospital and Zootherapie Quebec, an organization that screens dogs to ensure their behavior and temperament is adequate to interact with children. Every Wednesday, children who are well enough are moved from their sterile rooms to a family type room to interact with the animal and other children.
“Some kids spend eight weeks in their hospital beds, unable to move,” said Magdalinos.
When asked what they most look forward to when they go back home, children say they want to see their bedroom and their pet.
While the therapy cannot bring each child’s pet to visit, the dog gives them a chance to share memories said Judy Edes, a child life specialist. “We use the dog as the tool, but there’s the whole social aspect to the therapy. The presence of the dog makes the kids laugh, talk, tell stories and reminisce,” she said.
“We have enough money for this year, but we can’t project further. We rely solely on the community for funding,”said Edes, who brought the pet therapy program to the hospital three years ago.
“We’ve had widespread support from the staff. They are all advocates for bettering the negative impacts of hospitalization,” she said.
Bringing dogs into the hospital environment presents several challenges, but the necessity of the program is evident, according to Edes. “The children forget that they’re sick for the few minutes they’re with the dog,” she said.
CASA Cares raised $4000 through their silent auction, and are confident that they have surpassed their $10, 000 objective. Thanks in part to their efforts, children will benefit from special programs like pet therapy for another year at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, hopefully giving them something positive to write about in their diaries.