By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News
The massive effort of Knights of Columbus members, volunteers, sponsors and supporters once again came together in a Celebrity Dinner gala event at the Cathedral of the Holy Family, to raise funds for amenities at the much-needed Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon.
“I would again rate our event as awesome, all the way through: spiritually, speaker-wise, the entertainment, and the food,” said Garry Maier, chair of the Knights of Columbus Celebrity Dinner organizing committee.
The Nov. 2 event was the sixth annual Celebrity Dinner organized by the local Knights of Columbus council in support of Saskatchewan’s children’s hospital, which has now officially opened as of September 2019.
Through previous celebrity dinners, the Knights of Columbus had already raised some $325,000 for furnishing a maternal care area.
This year’s event raised $50,000, including a $10,000 donation from event sponsors Les and Irene Dubé, long-time supporters of the children’s hospital and other health initiatives in the province. A $17,757.55 donation from the Knights of Columbus council at St. Peter parish in Unity, SK also contributed to the total raised this year for a comfort care room at the new hospital.
Representatives of the Knights of Columbus council at St. Peter, Unity, were on hand at the Saskatoon dinner to present a cheque to Maier. Unity Grand Knight Jeff Krupka described how his entire community (population about 2,600) pulled together to put on a gala dinner of their own last year to raise the funds. “There was as much community involvement as we could obtain,” said Krupka.
The 2019 Celebrity Dinner was emceed by Jeff Rogstad and Chantel Saunders of CTV, with entertainment provided by the St. Joseph Catholic high school choir, under the direction of teacher Shaun Bzdel, as well as by Kids of Note and the Notations, directed by Brenda Baker. Singer-songwriter Eileen Laverty joined the children in singing “Angels Among Us.”
Baker poignantly described her own family’s experiences with the health care system during her daughter Tori Slade’s short life. Born in 2003, Tori died of leukemia in 2008. “Our family spent a lot of our life in the hospital,” Baker said, applauding the improvements that will come in care for children and much-needed support for parents and families with the opening of the new child- and family-centred hospital.
Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Champion Child Blake Wheeler, 13, also described the medical challenges that his family faced when he and his twin brother Noah were born 14 weeks premature. Noah did not survive, and Blake faced many medical challenges in the days and years that followed. Having a dedicated children’s hospital will make a huge difference to families living through such difficult times, he told the Knights of Columbus gathering. “On behalf of kids like me across our province: thank you.”
A number of special guests spoke and brought greetings, including Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark. “Saskatchewan and our city have so much to offer this country,” Clark said. “Through organization like the Knights of Columbus, through efforts like this to build a children’s hospital… people come together like nowhere else in the country.”
Saskatchewan MLA Eric Olauson described how moved he was during the grand-opening tour of the new Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital to see the Knights of Columbus plaque on the maternal care room. “It brought tears to my eyes. I am so proud and so humbled to be part of this,” he said. Thanks to government and community support – including the support of organizations like the Knights of Columbus, the children’s hospital has “176 new beds and the best technology that the world has to offer… enabling our Saskatchewan kids to get care right here.”
Bishop Mark Hagemoen also brought greetings, and led grace before the meal. He noted that at the beginning of November we celebrate All Saints and All Souls days, an appropriate time to reflect on how such faithful efforts “build on the shoulders of giants” in a spirit of love and faith and generosity. He thanked the Knights of Columbus for undertaking such needed and important works of service.
Brynn Boback-Lane, President and CEO of the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Foundation also spoke, expressing her gratitude to the Knights of Columbus and Les and Irene Dubé for helping to make the new hospital a reality.
Throughout the evening, auctioneer Joe Sikora conducted live auctions of a range of donated items during the evening as part of the fun and the fund-raising.
Featured guest speakers were Todd and Sonja Burpo, whose three-year-old son Colton was deathly ill with a burst appendix when Todd was a pastor in Nebraska. The family’s experience is the subject of a best-selling book “Heaven is For Real,” which was made into a movie in 2010.
Todd described how Colton’s sickness tested his faith, and then strengthened it, as in the months that followed, his young son described leaving his body during surgery and going to heaven, meeting Jesus, as well as a grandfather he had never met, and an unborn sister miscarried by his mother before he was born.
The experience of seeing his son suffer brought Todd to his knees, anguished and angry with God. “I was mad, and I was yelling, but I was honest with God,” he said, calling it the most honest prayer of his life. Young Colton later related how he saw his father praying alone in the hospital room.
Sonja described the painful experience of Colton’s sickness and of previously losing a child to miscarriage. She shared with others who may have experienced miscarriage that “God is taking care of your child,” and urged those who are struggling to get the help they need, to find healing. “Don’t let your hurt keep you from helping others,” she said.
Their presentation included a video of teenage Colton singing a hymn assuring others of the love of Jesus, and a prayer session for all those present struggling with brokenness and hurt.
Gallery of photos
Photography by Tim Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News