Walmart staff meet Children’s Miracle Network Champion

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

On July 27, the staff at Fort Frances Walmart had the opportunity to meet this year’s Children’s Miracle Network Champion Child for the region.

Keira, 11, from Manitoba was born with a condition called Craniosynostosis and told Walmart staff all about it.

“I was born with Craniosynostosis,” Keira said. “It is a condition where the sutures in a baby’s skull fuse too soon. It can cause eye and ear problems, breathing problems, spine problems, facial defects and possible learning delays.”

Because of her condition, Keira has had many surgeries, early and often in her life.

“When I was nine months old, I had a craniotomy, which means that surgeons at Children’s Hospital cut my head open from one ear to the other, so that there was room for my brain to grow,” Keira told the audience of Walmart staff. “I don’t remember that first surgery, but my parents say they were very worried about me and my recovery, and that it took a few months for my hair to grow back. I also had to wear a helmet for a while to help shape my skull.”

Andrew Ferris is the program director for the Children’s Miracle Network in Manitoba. He accompanied Keira and her parents on a tour of northwestern Ontario Walmarts, including Kenora and Dryden and Fort Frances.

“Every year we choose one child to act as an ambassador for the sick and injured kids in our hospital,” Ferris said. “So these ambassadors travel around to different meetings, and different partners. They really just share their story to inspire all of our corporate partners to raise money in support of the children’s hospital.”

Bonnie Allan is an assistant manager at Walmart in Fort Frances. She says having Keira visit was important as employees continue to help with fundraising efforts.

“It’s actually really exciting for us and for the community because it brings it home right?” Allan said. “It helps us sell it to the customer. ‘Where’s our money going?’ To actually see it tangibly, something you can touch and see a person, that’s awesome. Even for the associate to actually be involved, it’s a big day for them.”

Ferris says the funds being raised right now are going to help kids have a positive experience when they have to go to the hospital.

The Fort Frances Walmart staff were treated to a visit from Keira, centre, who is the Children’s Miracle Network ambassador for our region. She suffered from a condition called craniosynostosis, which caused her skull to fuse too soon. —Allan Bradbury photo

“Especially over COVID a lot of the funds raised through Walmart have gone to our Child Life Department,” Ferris said. “The Child Life Department exists to make sure that children who have long stays in the hospital have the best possible experience, because it’s obviously quite difficult for them to be in the hospital for long periods of time, especially with COVID when there was a lot of visitation restrictions. They weren’t able to see lots of friends and family members. The Child Life Department has things like music therapy, clown therapy, they have play spaces, and they have a closed circuit television system which is television that gets streamed throughout the hospital.”

In her presentation, Keira said she remembered visits from the hospital clown that helped her feel better.

“One of my favourite memories during my hospital stay was when the hospital clown came to my room to cheer me up and show me some magic tricks. It made me forget the pain I was going through,” Keira said. “A lot of people don’t realize how much the hospital relies on donations to provide these activities and the surgical equipment and health research that helps kids so that each child who comes to the children’s hospital gets amazing care like I did.”

After Keira gave her presentation the Walmart staff gave her a gift. She was given the opportunity to choose any toy she wanted from the toy section. After some searching and tough decision making, she finally came away with a Jurassic World Lego set.