Toronto charity prepares to welcome young Ukrainians with cancer in need of treatment

Inside an Etobicoke skyscraper, the apartment is vacant. There are couches, chairs, and a bed with sheets on it, all waiting for a tenant no one here has yet met.

It could very well be the temporary new home of a Ukrainian family facing more than just a war at home.

“These families will have been touched by a double tragedy,” Alexandra Chyczij told CTV News Toronto. Chyczij is the President of the Ukrainian-Canadian Congress. “Not only their child’s illness, but the impact of war adds to that.”

For some families in Ukraine, the devastation of losing their homes and fleeing for their lives has been made all the more difficult by their children’s battles with childhood cancers. With the establishment of temporary treatment facilities in neighboring countries, some global humanitarian organizations are preparing to airlift some of the children in need of cancer treatment to children’s hospitals around the world. The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto is one such potential site.

A spokesperson for SickKids confirmed to CTV News Toronto that teams have begun preliminary preparations in case pediatric patients and their families require care in Toronto. But the hospital says at this stage nothing has been confirmed. The hospital says it is exploring the possibility of providing care for a few Ukrainian cancer patients, but calls it a “very fluid situation” involving many government and community partners.

Some of these community partners do not wait for confirmation to act. Meagan’s HUG, a charity that raises money and awareness for the fight against childhood cancer, immediately began organizing to help families who might be headed this way.

“We got off to a flying start,” said Denise Bebenek, founder and president of HUG Meagan. Its aim, “to see what we could do to mobilize and organize all that needs to be done to ensure that we provide shelter, food and clothing and all the essentials that children need in such a difficult time. of their life.”

The charity has partnered with Capreit, a real estate investment trust company, which has offered ten apartments for use by Ukrainian families, if they are brought to Toronto for treatment. The company’s CEO said his staff immediately got to work when approached with the request. Mark Kenney told CTV News, “Within 24 hours we had ten apartments fully furnished with linens, dishes, furniture – ready to welcome people and be comfortable.”

Meagan’s HUG also raises funds through their website to help cover other expenses families may incur, such as food and clothing. Bebenek says she has been overwhelmed by the generosity of Canadians offering to help.

Chyczij says she’s also impressed with the response from people across the country who are willing to help Ukrainian families who may be traveling to Toronto.

“If Russia’s depravity did anything, it brought out the best in humanity.”

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