Flower fundraiser to aid IWK

Nancy MacPhee
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Inaugural Carnations for Kids takes place Fridays, Saturdays in March at Kelly’s Flower Shoppe

SUMMERSIDE — It’s a place near and dear to Cindy Robichaud’s heart.

Jessica Robichaud (left), her sister Emily and their friend, Gage Bowness are hoping Islanders support the inaugural Carnations for Kids campaign, which takes place each Friday and Saturday in March at Kelly’s Flower Shoppe. All funds raised through the campaign with go to the IWK Health Centre in Halifax.

That’s why the mother of two and owner of Kelly’s Flower Shoppe, along with her staff, wanted to do something to help the IWK Health Sciences Centre.

The result is Carnations for Kid, a fundraiser that will take place Fridays and Saturdays in March. Customers can come into the flower shop, pick up a single carnation or even a bouquet, and make a cash donation to the IWK.

“They are wonderful. They give you all kinds of support. They make sure your needs are looked after as well as your child’s,” Robichaud said of the staff at the children’s hospital. “They make sure that you try and have family support there with you. They think of everything. They think of absolutely everything.”

It was nine years ago that Robichaud first needed the hospital’s help. Almost immediately after her first child, Jessica, was born, the infant was airlifted to Halifax after a difficult delivery.

“She spent about a week there. They kept her in NICU. They monitored her and were watching to make sure she was OK,” she recalled. “They really didn’t know what was wrong. She seizured and they airlifted her out and we went over and they kind of watched her and made sure, developmentally, that everything was OK.”

It was a scary time, for the new mother and her husband, Marc.

“It was awful. It’s just something that you don’t want to ever have to experience.”

The nurses, doctors and staff at the IWK helped ease their nerves and anxiety.

“They are amazing, they absolutely are.”

A team of doctors followed Jessica until age seven, when she was diagnosed with celiac disease. A new team of doctors now follows the youngster.

“They treat me really well,” said the outgoing little girl, who is healthy and doing well, a Grade 4 student at Elm Street Elementary. “It’s a good place to be.”

Robichaud and her family are not the only ones at Kelly’s who have been touched by the IWK and its staff. Donnie MacArthur and Elise Arsenault, floral designers at Kelly’s, have spent countless hours at the hospital.

MacArthur’s oldest daughter, Christina, had to frequent the Halifax hospital on numerous occasions after being diagnosed with a kidney condition. The trips started when Christina was only six-years-old and continued yearly until she turned 19.

Today, Christina is doing well and studying at UPEI.

When Arsenault was 10, she spent a great deal of time at the hospital, first having surgery and then follow-up visits and therapy.

“I went over for a spinal fusion operation and a slipped vertebra. Basically, if it hadn’t been for Dr. Hyndman at the orthopedic specialist clinic and his team I wouldn’t be able to walk today,” said Arsenault. “They reset my spine. I was in a body cast for two months.”

She spent a great deal of time, confined to a hospital bed in her home, healing.

“Ambulance attendants had to take me back from the IWK after surgery. Then there was an ambulance trip back over when it was time to have it removed and go through therapy afterwards, learning to walk again,” added Arsenault. “That was the hardest part, learning how to walk. There is a hereditary bone disease in my family and we have a brittle bone condition. This was just something that happened after too many falls on the ice.”

One nurse, Susan on Five West, made her stay in hospital easier.

“She was just happy. She had a sparkle in her eye. Everything was kind and gentle and patient, even when I was frustrated or having claustrophobic attacks with the body cast on,” said Arsenault. “They brought my whole bed out into hall and baby talked me and kept eye contact with me and made sure I was keeping it together.”

Without the IWK, she said she would never have been able to have her son, Gage, who is now eight.

“I probably wouldn’t have been able to carry a child because I wouldn’t have been ale to walk. It was pretty much a miracle I had him and it’s thanks to them.”

Gage has that same rare bone disease, but as his mother puts it, “he is a stronger version, not as breakable as mommy.”

Twice a year, he sees specialists from the IWK that come to Charlottetown.

Supporting the hospital is something Arsenault’s family has done since she was a patient and will continue to do.

“My 12-year-old face was on the IWK Telethon for several years in the ‘80s and ‘90s and we always donated.”

Robichaud said her story and those of her staff are not unique.

“They give so much to you while you are there. I probably don’t know one person on P.E.I. that hasn’t use the facility or doesn’t know a friend or family member that uses it, so we all have to support it.”

Robichaud has no idea how many carnations the shop will go through during the month, but hopes to have to keep ordering more of the flowers.

“It’s just one of those things in life. You have to give back.”

And, added, Jessica, “It’s really nice to help the other children that have worse stuff wrong with them than I do.”



Organizations: IWK Health Sciences Centre, Grade 4, Elm Street Elementary Halifax hospital

Geographic location: NICU, Charlottetown

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