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From the parent of a Champion

Kristina Zahn is the mother of the 2018 McMaster Children’s Hospital Foundation Champion, Ethan. In March, their family joined other Champions from Canadian children’s hospitals in Ottawa, where they went on an ambassador tour before joining the U.S. Champions in Orlando for #ChildrensHospitalsWeek.

Ethan has been our Champion his whole life, and now is his chance to be recognized by the whole country.

     Ethan was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2011 when he was seven years old. He was always a strong child but he would have to find the courage to deal with many hospital trips consisting of tests, pokes, check ups, infusions, surgeries and a life changing disease. He has grown with the support of his amazing team at McMaster Children’s Hospital and they are a huge part of our life that we are thankful for every day.
     In September 2017 we got a call, a day that we will never forget. The call came from the hospital informing us that Ethan had been named the Children’s Miracle Network Champion Child for 2018! What did that mean? What is this program all about? What is a Champion child?
     Ethan was so excited to be named one of thirteen Champion Children in Canada. What an incredible honour to be representing the kids from not only our own McMaster Children’s Hospital but the millions of children across Canada. He had a lot of questions and was a little nervous at the thought of speaking to groups and sharing his story. He started his reign in January when the torch was passed to him from the 2017 Champion at our local Walmart. We were amazed at the support of the Walmart Canada employees, many who drove from other areas to come and see Ethan and hear his story. From that moment, we realized what an incredible adventure we were about to take.

The Ambassador Tour

One of the highlights of our trip was meeting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

     The tour itself was something that we really have a hard time putting into words. It was INCREDIBLE! We as a family were so excited to be travelling to Ottawa and Orlando. For the first time ever, we didn’t have to plan anything! It was all planned for us. When we arrived in Ottawa we met families from across Canada who have shared similar struggles and journeys. Ethan was thrilled to meet other kids who have had the same experiences that he has.
     From the first day the bond with the Champion children was evident. They were sharing Snapchat and Instagram handles and forming lifelong friendships. They took selfies together and shared their stories. The Champion children shone during the week, they were amazing at speaking to media and corporate sponsors explaining the value of the treatment they had each received at their children’s hospitals. The parents and families also developed bonds that we will carry forever. We all know what it means to have a child with an illness or disease, and to see them being celebrated for their accomplishments was extraordinary.

Ethan shone during his speech at the Walmart meeting, where he shared his experience with McMaster Children’s Hospital

Ethan loved meeting Walmart Canada Employees to share his story.

After our Trip

     Coming home from the tour was hard! We made so many amazing friendships and had such a wonderful time that it was difficult to see it end. Thankfully we have a Facebook group that we continue to post pictures and well wishes in. One of our sweet Champion children was not feeling well so the other kids were sending her video messages and pictures to cheer her up. The kids have all had other opportunities at home as well which we post for each other to see. These kids are amazing!
     One Champion was speaking at her school and helping with a telethon for her hospital, one was a special guest at a basketball game, and one was named honourary captain of an MLS soccer team! Ethan was chosen by the mayor as one of five people in our city who are doing great things. He was asked to be in a video that was shown at the State of the City Address.
     Ethan will also be doing a launch at our hospital for the Children’s Miracle Network fundraising campaign by Walmart Canada. He will be giving a tour of the hospital to the Walmart team and showing them what it means to him to have the care that he does. He continues to amaze us in how far he has come and the ease at which he shares his story now through public speaking. This experience has given him so much confidence.
     To say this was an experience of a lifetime would be a huge understatement. We are humbled at the opportunity that we were given. We as a family are so thankful to Children’s Miracle Network, our hospital and the corporate sponsors that gave us this tour. Our hearts are full for Ethan and the other Champion children being put into the spotlight and recognized for all that they have achieved. We know and love these families that we shared this time with. We know these unbelievable children and we know their stories. We are blessed to have had this experience and will carry it with us. Thank you for everything that you did for Ethan and making him a Champion, we are forever grateful.

Ethan and the other Champions were presented medals by Walmart Canada employees and posed for a picture with John Schneider.

Click here to learn more about the 2018 Champions, and click here to watch their moving rendition of Stand by Me.