A crushing blow to human kind must be the death of a child of tender years – unexpected, devastating, final. Can one learn to live with such a new normal? Perhaps. Probably not. There are, though, examples of time helping heal that wound and even nurturing an enviable, helpful, optimistic response. Such an unusual sequence happened to one of our own here at DEL, a tale of heroic proportions. It concerns the evolution of Meagan's Walk: Creating a Circle of Hope, from a very local event to an organization that now, in its 17th year, has a national and even a global reach. One reason for such scope is that paediatric brain tumours also have a global reach. So many are touched by this illness and will share our concerns as these tumours are the leading cause of cancer related death in children and young people up to the age of 20.
Imagine the young mother leaving the hospital, and leaving her dead child behind, on that Father's Day in 2001. Meagan Bebenek had just turned 5. This bereaved mother, in this case a rare achievement, turned her sorrow into a resource, determining that out of her experience, she could make a difference for other children affected by brain tumours, and their families. With no previous experience she resolved to raise funds and founded Meagan's Walk.
The first Meagan's Walk was planned for Mother's Day, 2002, a most wild, unruly day for sure. It came to be known as "the storm of the century" with all the usual horrors -driving rain,lightening and cold temperatures. However, 800 people came and stayed to "baptise" the inaugural event. The second walk, a year later, saw 1100 people attend. Networks developed. Towns from across Canada would rally behind a sorrowing family, raise money and send a delegation from Saskatchewan or Newfoundland to Toronto to participate in Meagan's Walk. Today, thousands are involved, from all over the world, joining the crusade to crush this paediatric cancer.
Meagan's Walk has now directed more than $5 million to ground breaking research at the Brain Tumour Research Centre in Toronto, leading to improved treatments, outcomes and quality of life for the little ones and their families. In addition Meagan's Walk efforts also supports the Meagan's Walk Neuro-Oncology Fellowship each year allowing a researcher from another country to come and work at SickKids. So far the Fellows have come from Spain, Czech Republic, Denmark and Brazil. They return home to continue the work, spreading the word and extending the network. So the movement grows, enhanced by collaboration, sharing the knowledge of the advancements taking place.
Progress is being made despite the inevitable complications involved. Nevertheless, the advances made are significant enough to motivate an army of volunteers to forge ahead in the battle to defeat the leading cause of cancer related deaths among little children.
To conclude, let us reflect and continue to reflect on the souls that have been uplifted by the collaborative effort and the successes of Meagan's Walk. This hopeful initiative is bearing fruit – answers are being found. In this community resource we have a helpful shining example of resilience , hopeful and healing, pouring light and solutions on the problems of paediatric brain tumours. De la Salle is happy and proud to be associated with the wonderful work of the Meagan's Walk community. It gives us a model to emulate and a course to follow. From small beginnings.......great enterprises arise!